When working for culture change a key leverage for transformational leadership is discerning what your company actually values from what it is supposed to value.

In our earlier blogs we distinguished nine facets of corporate culture:

  • Language and Network of conversations
  • Customer Orientation
  • What is actually valued?
  • Accountability & Responsibility
  • Legacy
  • Decision Rights and Processes
  • Unwritten rules for success
  • Leadership Dynamics
  • Traditions, Rituals, Heroes, Legends, & Artifacts

In this post we will explore what values are, and how to determine what is actually being valued in your organization.

Are your intended strategy, visions, and values being demonstrated? If not, what other unspoken behaviors powerfully present values that are driving results?

Providing transformational leadership involves intentionally translating organizational values into daily action and results.

First, what does it mean to value something?

The verb, to value is defined as:

To consider (someone or something) to be important or beneficial; to have a high opinion of; to regard highly; prize; esteem.

The noun value means:

The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth or usefulness of something.

In organizations the term “core value” is used a lot. What does it really mean?

Core values are the fundamental beliefs or guiding principles that orient behavior and action for a person or an organization.

Clear core values can support companies to determine if they are on the path to fulfilling their business goals. They create a lodestar or unchanging guide.

Most organizations expressly publish and communicate their core values. However, the best way to identify whether these values are really instilled is to watch how people act and behave.

A core value is only a “living” value if it has an active influence in company affairs, and if people within the company live by them (at least for the most part).

How can you find out what values are actually operating in your organization?

There are two simple ways to begin:

  • One is to listen objectively to how leaders assess each other. What is looked down upon? What is appreciated and recognized?
  • The second is to ask people what it really takes to succeed.

Discerning what is supposed to be important (because it is on a piece of paper) from what is really valued in practice and specific actions is the work of transformational leadership.

For example, at GM the value that everyone “knew” was top priority was safety.

However, the conclusion of an investigation into the company’s culture revealed that what was actually valued was to not do or say anything that would make yourself or the company look bad. This value was in fact orienting people’s actions and behavior.

Access to transforming a culture can only begin by confronting and observing which corporate values are being acted upon authentically.

With this awareness you will more accurately assess your culture and powerfully translate intended values into action broadly.

What is actually valued and recognized in the leaders at your company? What is looked down upon?

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