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Sunday, August 22, 2010

10 Keys for Getting Value from the Values of Positive Leadership™

Many organisations have statements of mission and values. Unfortunately, most of them sound alike. Who could quibble with the importance of "respect" or "customer focus"? Values statements can seem like passive decoration for walls and the Web, easily ignored. And the words don't really tell anyone what to do in any specific sense.

But that doesn't mean that values don't matter. In organisations that embrace a culture of Positive Leadership™, widespread dialogue about the interpretation and application of leadership values enhances accountability, collaboration, and initiative and, when linked to business strategy, drives high performance.

Here are ten essential ingredients that make the values of Positive Leadership™ work to produce organisational value:

1.       Values are a priority for leaders, invoked often in their messages and on the agenda for management discussions.
2.       The entire work force can enter the conversation; employees are invited to discuss or interpret values and principles in conjunction with their peers, who help ensure alignment.
3.       Principles are codified, made explicit, transmitted in writing in many media, and reviewed regularly to make sure people understand and remember them.
4.       Statements about values and principles invoke a higher purpose, a purpose beyond current tasks that indicates service to society. This purpose can become part of the company's brand and a source of competitive differentiation.
5.       The words become a basis for on-going dialogue that guides debate when there is controversy or initial disagreement. Strategic decisions are supported by reference to particular values or principles.
6.       Principles guide choices, in terms of business opportunities to pursue or reject, or in terms of investments with a longer time horizon that might seem uneconomic today.
7.       As they become internalised by employees, values and principles can substitute for more impersonal or coercive rules. They can serve as a control system against violations, excesses, or veering off course.
8.       Actions reflecting values and principles — especially difficult choices — become the basis for iconic stories that are easy to remember and retell, reinforcing to employees and the world what the company stands for.
9.       Values are aspirational, signaling long-term intentions that guide thinking about the future.
10.   Principles, purpose, and values are discussed with suppliers, distributors, and other business partners, to promote consistent high standards everywhere.

In short, it's not the words that make a difference; it's the conversation. Frequent discussion about organisational leadership values can be engaging and empowering. The organisation becomes a community united by shared purpose, which reinforces teamwork and collaboration. People can be more readily relied on to do the right thing, and to guide their colleagues to do the same, once they buy into and internalise core principles. People can become more aware of the drivers and impact of their behaviour. And, active consideration of core values and purpose can unlock creative potential.


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