The Power of Listening in Creating Corporate Values
SCG’s CEO and founder Patrick Strother has years of experience in helping companies create corporate values that reflect their brand goals and help foster a positive internal culture. While many companies talk a good game about their values, too often these “values” are just words that have little to do with the day-to-day realities of serving the business’ customers.
Real Corporate Values Reflect Reality
Many companies’ stated values are at odds with their actual culture and business goals. Values shouldn’t be aspirational; they should be a true reflection of what’s really important to the company and help drive the employee behaviors that create success. If your company values speed and quick decision making, say so. If the most important part of your business is accuracy and meticulous attention to detail, your values should reflect that.
You can’t fool people – especially the ones who show up to work at your business every day. People instinctively sense when you’re being real and when they are being fed corporate platitudes. If your values don’t mirror your culture and your goals, they won’t resonate. More importantly, they won’t encourage and reward the behaviors that drive your company’s success.
The Challenge of Creating Values that Resonate
We’ve helped many companies develop new corporate values. It’s a thoughtful, multi-step process, one that needs to be handled with sensitivity and tact. Although a key decision maker understands the importance of new and more accurate values, there’s often a resistance to change. Some stakeholders may have participated in the creation of the current values and see the new values as a criticism of their work. Of course, this isn’t necessarily the case. Businesses change and grow over time, and what may have been appropriate 10 or 20 years ago can become outdated as the company evolves.
There may also be divisions within the company. Upper management may see values behind a company’s success one way, while rank-and-file workers experience a much different reality. A truly successful values program must bridge the gap between different factions to express the true character of the company. Cooperation is a must. If the values are viewed as something dictated by upper management, there’s little chance that the program will bring the intended results.
The Power of Listening
Thankfully, there’s a “super power” that SCG uses to help guide our process of creating corporate values: listening. I first came to fully appreciate the importance of this seemingly simple concept during a particular working session Patrick and I held at a client’s headquarters to develop a new set of corporate values.
The participants were carefully selected to represent leaders from all departments of the company as well as high-achieving line workers. After explaining the process and purpose of the session, Patrick then began to ask the assembled employees what they thought the company’s strengths were and what made it so successful.
As the session went on, the energy level in the room was palpable. The group was excited to talk about the passion they brought to their job and why they believed what they did each day was important to the success of the company. Our role was to help spark conversation – but also make sure that we kept the tone positive and created consensus over any points of contention. Soon, we had a whiteboard full of ideas that we were able to articulate in six values that everyone agreed best captured the company’s culture and goals.
The most important part of this process was that everyone felt they had been listened to, that their opinion mattered. Because of this, the values we captured that day weren’t meaningless corporate speak – the values were something the group had worked together to create. By simply listening and fostering a dialogue, we were able to not only identify new values, but get complete buy-in from everyone in the room.
After this initial meeting, we applied this momentum to power a comprehensive internal communications plan to help teach and reinforce the values across the company. It was highly successful in building morale within the company and expressing what made the company so special to prospective employees and customers.
If you’d like to learn more about how SCG can help you refresh your corporate values and culture to achieve your goals, please drop me a line. We’d love to listen and learn what makes your company stand out from the crowd.