“The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.” —Simon Sinek
As the discussion continues around building capacity, one area often overlooked is the beliefs and values that an organization aspires to hold, which can have a significant impact on the organization’s success. I read an article recently that an organization’s core values are synonymous with the company’s “heart.” These values form a living beacon that guide what the organization believes in and how it executes each day, but it can be very easy to become distracted by the day-to-day work and lose sight of these important beliefs and standards. Often, organizations don’t think this way; they view values as another “saying on the wall,” something to announce then promptly forget.
Creating a strong set of values enables strength within an organization to grow and nurture. Let’s look at some foundational principles to engage the organization in building a strong set of values and culture.
Organizations should begin in the definition phase by carefully considering what is important and sacred. They can use this process to be inclusive while surveying all key stakeholders and stewards of the organization’s work. The focus should first be on the stories its people and clients talk about the company and share with one another. What is celebrated; what draws attention; what does “everyone” care about? What tales are modern legends in the company? Where does the organization find its pride, or its shame? Its hope, or its despair? Its honor and its humanity? Using this approach will enable organizations to discover truer, more meaningful values that resonate today and tomorrow.
After establishing the core set of beliefs, organizations should test to ensure they resonate well both within and outside the organization. One way to do this is to engage key stakeholders, shareholders and employees in thoughtful discussion surrounding the outcome of the values exercise.
Once an agreed upon set of values is in place, organizations can design an “embedding” process that is thoughtful and engages all within the organization by articulating company values in a way that convinces the employees that their work is truly meaningful and aligns with the mission and direction of the company. Incorporating organizational values into every company process and discussion is one of the most effective ways to communicate a company’s commitment to values.
It’s important that organizations build a culture that aligns with its values and recognize employees who epitomize them. When company values are explicitly tied to recognition, it helps synchronize company values and principles even further. Strong organizational core values form the framework that influences behavioral attitudes of both individuals and groups within an organization.
Core values represent a company’s heart. While some organizations understand their core values intimately, others struggle to put them into practice. No matter what a company’s relationship to its core values looks like, leaders can always work to improve their understanding and utilization of this key element.
How do strong organizational values impact capacity to perform? Strong values enable an organization to distinguish its identity and core purpose. They offer meaningful ways to enhance and improve company retention and recruitment. Strong values have a direct impact on behavior and assist in the decision process. Lastly, they shape the culture of the organization and align it with success. I encourage everyone to take a moment and review the company’s values and beliefs as a chance to discover another key element to enhance the impact and capacity of the firm!
Bruce Weber is founder and president/CEO at Weber Group. Weber brings more than 20 years of experience to the for-profit and nonprofit community, working with startup, growth and mature organizations. His focus is in strengthening organizations through strategic planning, organizational development, leadership and board development. He is a BoardSource Certified Governance trainer and a founding partner of the Nonprofit Lifecycles Institute.