In today’s business environment there has never been more pressure to deliver results and grow the bottom line – with whatever means possible. This breeds tremendous stress, pressure and uncertainty, and can easily lead you to a Values Violation Situation.
But let’s back up a minute. Before company values are violated, they must be created! And when it comes to values, today’s top organizations are (finally) getting it. They have moved the company’s values off the Board Room wall and into the mainstream of employee behavior. They live their values. Their values are sacred. How sacred? The Googles and Etsy’s of the world have realized that when you connect corporate values and purpose to those of their team members and customers, the result is a culture immune to crisis – or at least equipped to handle ambiguity and external threats.
So, how do you build an organization “immune” to crisis?
It all starts with the people you hire. The organizations that ‘get it’ realize that the most important quality a new candidate can have is alignment with the company’s values. It’s the well-known ‘hire for attitude and train for everything else’ approach. Leaders in these ‘wow!’ businesses know this is the key to creating a winning team.
Once you’ve hired, start instilling your values. That means catching people “doing it right” and rewarding them. If you don’t, you’re risking a Values Violation Situation.
Ability to renew
So when some executive at Volkswagen thought it was a good idea to cheat the customers of their diesel cars, therefore violating every single one of their values, what were the results? Within weeks of the scandal breaking, Volkswagen lost their position as the world’s top automobile manufacturer. Their brand took a huge, and possibly unrecoverable hit. They will pay multiple billions in damages and fines to settle. Some executives may even end up in fashionable orange coveralls picking up garbage on the side of the Interstate.
What should the leaders of Volkswagen have done when someone came up with the idea to lie and cheat (and violate their values)? There should have been an immediate (faster, even) and very public firing of the people or team that encouraged, allowed and executed the concept.
Leaders are first and foremost role models, and when the team sees that they hold company values sacred, they hold their heads high and proud. They gladly follow suite. When they see leaders violate or tolerate values violations, the entire team is stripped of their pride. And, like graffiti, more values violations soon appear.
Imagine how those once loyal Volkswagen team members feel going into work today? Imagine how they feel when they get together with family and friends who have trusted them and bought polluting Volkswagen cars?
As a leader, you have to address the problem far before it happens. Reward and discipline according to your values from day one.