The problem with most companies’ values (and, dare I say, most people’s values) is follow-through.
What we do about them once we’ve declared them.
I wrote here about whether values are really values if we don’t always manage to live up to them. Spoiler alert: yes, because we’re human. But – and this is an important point – if we don’t have ways to hold ourselves and our teams accountable, ways to pause and evaluate how we’re doing, then values (especially corporate values) tend to be lost in the day-to-day shuffle of urgency and noise.
And thus we come to this post’s headline.
When we turn our values into actionable statements (verbs!), we – and our employees, families, and communities – have a far better sense of what’s actually intended and how to follow through.
For instance, “Integrity” becomes “Do the right thing.”
How do I know if I’m doing the right thing? Well, I think we all know – but to really make it actionable, for me, it includes “take a stand for what I believe in,” “do what’s necessary even when it’s scary,” and so on.
For an organization, “integrity” could have to do with how employees handle the difficult challenges of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B).
Interestingly enough, even something as apparently-obvious as “integrity” can encompass different action statements – different verbs – for different people and for different companies. Maybe for one company, “integrity” is about how they interact with their customers and the marketplace as a whole, and they have a different value encompassing questions of DEI&B.
All of this requires us, individually and collectively within our companies, teams, communities, and families, to be thoughtful, thorough, and careful. What do we really mean by “integrity,” or by any of the many other values we claim for ourselves?
It’s all very well to declare a value. But failing to walk the talk leads to other failures, within an organization as well as for ourselves as individuals.It's all very well to declare a value. But failing to walk the talk leads to other failures, within an organization as well as for ourselves as individuals.Click To Tweet
And those failures can be downright catastrophic – as we can see if we look at some of the more … interesting … corporate meltdowns, many (if not all) of which have a failure of values at the root.