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  • Writer's pictureHennie Brittz

How to revitalise your culture: a values-based approach

Companies that create a culture of collaboration, underpinned by a shared purpose and values, outperform the competition by 20%.

The reason for this is simple: happy employees = happy customers.

In a brilliant talk given a few years back at the World Economic Forum, late Prof. Sumantra Goshal explained that developing happy, motivated employees is “less about changing people and more about changing the context which they are in.” Prof. Goshal used the simple metaphor of “smell” to demonstrate this concept.

In his talk, he unpacked how top-down strategies, processes and policies can create a “smell” of constraint, compliance, control and contract among frontline employees. On the flip-side, when management creates a high-energy setting that encourages and motivates employees to reach for higher goals, the “smell” is one of stretch, discipline, trust and support.

A powerful way to shift the “smell” within your business is by taking steps to revitalise your company’s values and demonstrate the intersection between your purpose and values.

It’s increasingly well-understood that when employees embrace a company’s purpose it supports long-term performance. This is because employees believe in what the business is trying to achieve and feel a connection between their values and those of the company. This requires more than simply developing a list of words but rather consistently demonstrating these values through the company’s strategy, culture and performance.

A company’s values, therefore, become the how to deliver the why. Creating a values-led purpose, and demonstrating these values through behaviour, creates a smell of stretch rather than constraint – where every individual is motivated to do more rather than less.

Here are some steps you can take to revitalise your values:

1. Co-create your values

A powerful way to activate your values is by inviting employees to be a part of the conversation.

Unpack your values with employees to determine the behaviours needed to accomplish your why. Key questions to ask are: what makes the organisation successful? What do you love about coming to work? What would you miss about working here?

The goal is to get a real understanding of how employees see and value working for the organisation. By focusing employees on ‘who’ you are as a business and ‘what’ you stand for, you can shorten the line of sight between their personal purpose and values and those of the business.

2. Describe the meaning of values

Words hold different meanings to different people, so it is important to clearly define what each value means. To provide clarity, give a high-level overview of what the value is and the behaviours each embodies. Try to keep it simple and avoid buzzwords. If people can’t understand or remember what you stand for, it will be hard for them to bring those values to life.

3. Unpack values into standards

Identify statements that describe how employees and leaders need to ‘Show Up’ in terms of living the values. This makes it easier for them to see when they are not matching your standards. Once you’ve defined the behaviours and practises required to live the values, back these statements up with concrete examples to help employees understand how they can embody these behaviours and practices in their daily work.

Simplify each standard to a single page and communicate this throughout the organisation. Employees and leaders need to have a clear understanding of what it means to ‘Show Up’ in their roles. This unified understanding of the behaviours required to get results creates an environment where everyone is self-disciplined in their engagements and commitments and take accountability for their actions.

4. Embed the values in regular conversations

Keeping your values front of house by embedding them into daily operations is crucial to longevity and success. A key way to do this is by making values-based dialogue a part of your weekly meetings. Reviewing how employees ‘Show Up’ against the standard in regular conversations creates an open and transparent feedback loop to share ideas for improvement, foster collaboration and celebrate success.

This creates an environment of trust and support, where managers are not seen as ‘out to control’ but there ‘to help me win’. By operating in a context of trust employees will be inspired to adapt to change, take initiative and accountability and focus their energy behind what really matters to your business.

Do you know what your company culture smells like?

When people live the values, it completely changes the “smell” of the place. What smell does your culture have? A culture left to default is a missed opportunity to unleash the performance potential of your people and win in the marketplace and the workplace.

Explore how our Values-co-creation workshops and bespoke learning solutions can help revitalise your culture and unleash high-performance.

About the author: Hennie Brittz, Director and Head of Marketing and Technology at 2Collaborate

Hennie has spent 13 years in business and consulting conceptualising, designing and implementing large-scale performance improvement processes. An entrepreneur at heart, he founded the design and internal communications agency, Elevate, in 2019. Shortly, thereafter he co-founded GameChangers, a business consultancy that brings you the best from the sports field and boardroom.

Get to know more about Hennie on LinkedIn


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