The Key to Passion for Team Alignment: Organization Values
Peter van Thiel, founder of PayPal and venture capitalist (early shareholder of Facebook, LinkedIn and Yelp to name a few) famously said to AirBnB co-founder and CEO, Brian Chesky, upon the question of what is the single most important advice he wanted to give them, after just handing over a funding cheque of US 150 million:
I like Chesky’s simple definition of a company’s culture: a shared way of doing something with passion. It’s the expression of how you want to behave and work as a team together to achieve your vision, mission and aspirational goals. It’s the final piece in the puzzle of what drives the organization and its stakeholders towards your vision of the future.
Identifying Organization Values
In my strategy alignment workshops I usually help leadership teams identify their company values by asking them to describe the behaviors of people they see as role models and misfits. For each of these, I ask them to answer a few questions:
- Role Models
- Identify and name an employee who embodies everything that is good about the organization.
- What traits and qualities do they possess that you and the company admire in them?
- Identify and name an employee who, although maybe talented, were or are no longer a good fit for the organization. These are the people who despite their professional knowledge drive people around them crazy. Not having them around would improve the team’s performance.
- What are the traits they possess that makes them a problem and distraction?
From the long list that follows from these discussions the leadership team is easily able to identify the values that really articulate who they are, what they stand for and how they want to behave with each other.
What the Right Values Can Achieve
Even though almost every company I’ve visited has their values up on the wall for everyone to see, many of them don’t live by the well written words. The idea is that everyone from the CEO to the receptionist and every employee in between must subscribe to the importance of their values.
One organization, that in my view has nailed it, is the Ritz Carlton (my favorite hotel chain and no, I am not being paid for this endorsement, just a raving fan!). The Ritz Carlton has not only articulated their credo, motto and service values beautifully but they are also one of the few companies where a customer actually feels that they provide a fantastic experience. The key to the Ritz’s success in making their team live their values daily is having a session in which each employee (yes each!) has a ten minute discussion about one of their service values at the beginning of their workday.
In order to make your values come alive it’s paramount for each and every employee to truly understand what they mean. Frequent conversations and not just posters on the wall are essential in helping employees understand the deeper meaning of what your values mean.
Making Organization Values Count
However just talking about them is not enough. The values also have to be the foundation of every people centric decision you make in the company. Netflix is my poster child for embedding the values in the fabric of their organization.
So next time your leadership team comes together, ask them this question to test their commitment to the organization values:
When was the last time we let a person go, who, despite the fact he/she achieved his targets didn’t live our organization values?
If they can’t remember the last time that this happened, you know you have a long way to go in creating a culture that will make a difference and achieve your vision. Let me know what you think by commenting below.