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Phil Rose

Ignium Consulting

Cofounder and Director

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Embracing values-based leadership through Covid-19

How to ensure your company lives its own values during a crisis.

In moments of stress our sense of purpose can be tested – especially when the world around us is in a state of uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity that many of us have never experienced before. When times are tough people often fall back on their core values, the things that remain true to them wherever they are and whatever they are doing. Those shared values espoused by the corporate brochure or in the culture presentation are truly tested to their limits. This is where our real, human values shine through.

The ‘internal compass’

Our values give us a sense of an internal compass and this sense is deeply rooted, sitting in an ancient area of the brain known as the amygdala. It is this ‘knowing’ that gives rise to our sense of ‘gut feel’ when we know something is right or wrong. It’s where our emotional reactions originate.

So, when leaders talk of being purpose or values led, our true internal compass will give us a sense of their congruence, or not. At times when people need clear leadership we must fall back on our own true values. As business leaders, we must ensure our values are in alignment with those of the organisation, so that our message remains consistent. Any mismatch will be apparent, and all credibility will be lost.  

I’ve previously talked about resilience and the importance of self-awareness and trust. It is self-awareness specifically related to values that is key at time like this as it links to authenticity. Lack of an authentic belief in the values of your organisation will lead to a lack of trust. Your people will sense it, at that very ancient, deep-rooted level and quickly pick up on any inconsistencies.

Eight ways to live your values

In a values-based or purpose-led organisation the leaders fully ‘buy in to’ and live the values and purpose. That is what enables them to fully energise and guide themselves and influence their employees.

As this pandemic continues, we are sure to be tested further and need to dig deep. Your culture, the talent of your people and the behaviours that underpin that talent are the very foundation of the ‘value’ of your business. Nurture that culture and strive for positive engagement from your team. Be aware, however, that this only comes when we are truly aligned with who we are and what we believe in. That is true values-based leadership.

Here are eight ways to help you and your organisation create and be true to your values:

  1. Be clear on the reason why values are important for you and your organisation. Values-driven organisations are the most successful because they care about the needs of their people.
  2. What are your own values? Determine your own personal values. It takes time and effort but the key is to be open and honest with yourself
  3. Identify and agree the values of your organisation: if you haven’t already, it’s worth spending time with your colleagues to gain clarity and limit the number of values you have to around three. That way, it’s easier to remember and follow.
  4. Seek clarity on your desired behaviours: values are useful as a ‘compass’ to guide you, but to be even more valuable it is important that you are also clear on the behaviours that underpin those values. Values are worthless if you can’t identify good or bad examples of the associated behaviours.
  5. Question your thoughts and actions: watch for your language and actions and ask yourself of every thought and action, ‘is this in line with who I am at heart?’. Do your values align with the organisation you work with and for? If not, then now might be a good time to understand why and then decide what you want to do about the mismatch.
  6. Involve your team: in our experience, once you are clear on your values you and your team can make clear decisions from a deep-rooted place of knowing. Be aware of people paying ‘lip service’ to those values. In business, government, and society a mismatch in values will generate tension and that can have disastrous effects in the long-term.
  7. Check on your own ‘happiness levels’: it could be that you are out of alignment with your own values and that there is a mismatch between what you’re thinking, saying and doing.
  8. Purpose alignment: remember ‘resistance is created through a lack of clarity’. So, if you and your business are not achieving what you need, then it is possible there is a lack of alignment.

Are you creating a better culture for your organisation and its people?

HRZone has recently launched Culture Pioneers to support and celebrate the people practitioners dedicated to transforming company culture in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. If you’re doing good work in this area, we want to hear your story!

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Phil Rose

Cofounder and Director

Read more from Phil Rose

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