How do values impact on employee commitment?

“To be mature you have to realize what you value most. It is extraordinary to discover that comparatively few people reach this level of maturity. They seem never to have paused to consider what has value for them. They spend great effort and sometimes make great sacrifices for values that, fundamentally, meet no real needs of their own. Perhaps they have imbibed the values of their particular profession or job, of their community or their neighbors, of their parents or family. Not to arrive at a clear understanding of one’s own values is a tragic waste. You have missed the whole point of what life is for.”  – Eleanor Roosevelt.

Do you agree with this statement of Eleanor Roosevelt’s? I do. Working with leaders and business owners, I see many struggling to engage their teams and staff to a level that impacts positively on  performance and commitment. Some key questions to consider are:

  • What are the values of your organization?
  • How are they being demonstrated each day by YOU the leader?  What do you do each day to live those values?
  • How do you use the values to support difficult decision making?
  • Do your teams and staff know what the organization’s values really mean? ( Or are they just in a very smart looking plaque on the wall along with your vision and mission?)
  • Do you know if your people know their own values – THIS is key to having the power of values as the bridge to organizational success and happier people.
  • What do you care about? What do YOU value and believe in?

I was lucky enough to be on a webinar recently that  Jim Kouzes was presenting. Part of what he presented about leaders really engaging people was around Values.

Values – those things that you stand for; the promises you make to the market and to your staff; the non negotiables; the positive platform upon which your culture is built.

Have a look at the quadrant below.

We work to fulfill our own aspirations. When leaders are clear about their own philosophy there is clear connection to employee engagement.

When people know what they care about they are more committed than if they only knew company’s but not their own.

values_and_employeesIn Jim Kouzes extensive research and experience in leadership development this is a key finding with regards to staff and values. You can see, the highest level of employee commitment is when people have clarity not only about the organizations values but also about their own.

From: James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge: How To Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations, 5th edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2012, p. 56.

Help your people clarify and understand the importance of their own values, then help them see where the alignment is between theirs and the organizations. It might be that some people see there is no alignment and exit, and more likely the outcome will be that your  people really understand how they fit in and how they can, and want, to engage more fully and authentically.

If you need some help in clarifying, implementing and institutionalizing your organizational values I can help. Just email me  or go to the contact page. You can also go here to read more about personal Values and download a  free tool to start on clarifying your own personal values.

Please leave a comment about your experience using Values as a tool for employee engagement or culture change, or any kind of change you have led.

4 Responses to "How do values impact on employee commitment?"

  1. I found it relatively easy to change an organization from extremely low performance to extremely high performance through values.

    Our values are what we all use to decide what to do and how we react to what we experience. When we work for a company whose culture closely aligns with our own values, we become emotionally driven to throw everything we have at our work – all our creativity, innovation and productivity as well as all of our energy, knowledge, experience, and intelligence.

    So the truth is that values and behavior drive culture, culture drives employee engagement, employee engagement drives customer satisfaction and customer satisfaction drives shareholder value. When workplace culture (its values and behaviors) violate our own values, poor performance is the result.

    How did I accomplish alignment as an executive? First, I listened to employees more than enough to satisfy their need to be heard. Second, I responded to what they said (their complaints, suggestions, and questions) to their satisfaction or better even if it meant telling them why they could not have what they wanted. Some people were satisfied with a mid level standard, some only by the highest standard of a particular value. Listening and responding to the satisfaction of all employees caused management to raise standards to a level everyone greatly respected.

    That achieved alignment and led everyone to unleash their full potential on their work. This was managerial and workforce nirvana. Productivity rose over 300% per person and everyone loved to come to work.

    I did this more than once. Of course, I did not start there, but had to wean myself off the teachings of the leadership industry in order to start listening to my people.

    • Gai Foskett

      Thanks for your insights Ben and sharing your approaches to such high performance in so many ways. Interesting to hear you talk about weaning yourself off the leadership industry. Sort of ‘letting go’ of old thinking and being ‘vulnerable’ enough to stop and really listen to others. Being vulnerable I believe can take great courage. Your success and experiences are a loud endorsement for other leaders to stop and really, really listen and connect with their people in order to unleash everyone’s flow and potential. Inspiring. Thanks Ben.

  2. Thanks for the thanks, Gai.

    For me it was not about being vulnerable. I was just trying to do better. During my first 12 years, I had to admit that I was not effective in significantly raising the performance of my lowest and mid-level performer.

    I was using a form of the command and control approach I was taught at the US Naval Academy. So I decided to add listening to my daily routine. As I did this, their performance rose. The more I did it the more their performance rose. In an 18 month period, my ship went from being one of the worst to one of the best and performance was about two times higher than I thought humanly possible. Wow! Eventually I as able to raise their performance to a level four times higher than I thought humanly possible.

    Eventually, by listening and analyzing what I heard I was able to discover the science of people, why they react the way they do to what management does and does not do. This science makes clear exactly what leadership is and what actions will and will not lead people to unleash their full potential. Managing people became really easy for me and lots of fun.

    Thanks for listening, Ben

  3. Gai Foskett

    I agree Ben and there is a lot of neuro science behind what you did. Our social brains need to feel connected and ‘wanted’ by others. Being present ( listening as you described) to others is a powerful way to lead ….

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