The culture of an organization is a crucial contributor to its success or failure. I believe that shared company values are the most important part of creating a healthy, empowering, and positive culture—they create conditions where everyone is driving in the same direction. How such values come to be shared and influential is an interesting process, involving a give and take between different functions of the company.
Leaders are shaped as much by their organization as they shape it, and it’s in this process that important values are discovered and embraced. This process of discovery leads to pre-existing values being uncovered, identified, and prioritized. I would like to discuss some important factors leaders should consider when discovering and searching for pre-existing values, whether they’re familiar with their organization or still learning.
The single most important factor for shared values is that an organization is in alignment with them. That’s why it’s important to find the positive values that already exist and expand on them—everyone already believes in them and works by them, even if that’s an unconscious process. Moreover, a leader communicating these values will not be imposing them or creating empty corporate statements.
My approach is to let the values organically develop once I find them. The right values come with time and understanding. You can’t copy values from other organizations and try to fit them in another.
There are three components that I believe are crucial for establishing and expanding shared values. The first is knowing that the values already exist in the organization. Second, the organization needs to keep its promises to its people. Finally, there needs to be a clear and rational decision-making process.
It’s important to realize that positive and worthy values exist within the organization. As a leader, your focus should be to identify them and build upon them, and you’ll find that they will be easily adopted because they were already active. The people you work with are intelligent and ambitious, they want to build and grow, and given the chance that’s exactly what they’ll do—their values tend to reflect this.
Keeping promises is equally as important to building values. Credibility is what assures employees that their diligence, hard work, and contributions will not go unnoticed. Organizations that keep their promises to employees will earn the passion and hard work of their people.
A clear and rational decision-making process empowers key people to deliver their best. In my experience, it’s best to give autonomy to the people who prepare and complete the work—these people have the expertise to make the right decisions and should be empowered to make them and have the wisdom and experience to back them up.
Of course, a high-level decision about risk profiles or other key information carries its own weight, but that should be communicated to the decision-makers so that they adjust appropriately, and discussion should be encouraged. It’s important to realize that when values are aligned, everyone works toward the same goals.
The right values are often expanded from those that are already guiding an organization. They free its people to best apply their skill and find their passion. My advice for anyone seeking these values and trying to share them is to find them within the company—this has helped me adapt to DMC over the years and has unleashed our potential for growth. The importance of integrity and transparency in particular were values I admired, and DMC has continued to embody those without any imposition on my part.
Organizations that arrive at shared values and build by them can operate as much by expertise and insight as they do by intuition. With the right people and the right values, the right decisions will be made consistently at all levels. When an organization’s collective experience is brought to bear, and employees are empowered by values they believe in, the positive outcomes of success and growth become inevitable.