Why values must be expressed as behaviours

We came across the great article by Oliver Holtaway discussing the need for an alignment between company behaviours and values. A couple of great insights include that behaviours really are the drivers for brand values. The true value of this exists when both employee and customers experience those positive behaviours. Here’s a bit of an overview on the subject.

Ever worked in a company where the corporate values pinned on the wall didn’t match the day-to-day reality?

Business leaders know that this happens despite the very best intentions. So what causes corporate values to slip? Why do leaders struggle to close the gap between what’s said and what’s done? Often, it’s a failure to realise that values only truly have meaning when they are expressed as behaviours. In fact, a company’s values ARE behaviours — nothing more, nothing less.

It’s an idea that stretches back at least as far as Aristotle. By thinking about values in terms of behaviours, leaders can build robust and resilient cultures in which values are lived day in, day out. Only by doing this can leaders ensure that corporate values are activating corporate purpose.

Mapping behaviours

Take a value like “transparency”. A company that says it values transparency but doesn’t behave transparently clearly has a problem — that’s obvious. But how many companies take the extra step of articulating what “transparent behaviour” actually looks like across their business? Do this, and you will see that the answer will be different for each department, each process and at each stage of the customer journey. No matter how good the intention, a purely abstract value set won’t get into the DNA of the organisation and create positive change. Think in terms of value-behaviours, and you can translate intention into attention. You can focus on each part of the business in turn and create a clear and shared set of expectations of how colleagues will treat each other and how they will treat customers. This will allow you to activate your values and ensure that they are powerful tools for realising your purpose and driving performance.

We think that Oliver hits the mark here. But it’s also harder said than done. We’re helping our clients on a number of fronts in regards to the areas of culture and behaviours.

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