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Many companies have a values statement on the wall. But ask employees or even top managers what these values are and, yes, some can rattle them off. But then go further and ask this question: How would I know it if I see it? Then you probably will get a blank stare of some mumble jumble answer.

So how do you bring life to the values in your company?

CPR: is the Answer. Here’s How!

1.Describe Your Values
Organizations often tout their values – accountability, innovation, integrity, quality, respect, teamwork – but when is the last time you asked if these values have been defined in behavioral terms? Do the people know for example what, “respect” looks like, feels like or smells like?

In a leadership development program for a growing hospitality company, each training module included an exercise called “Values in Action”. Here’s an example. Your customers would see “integrity” because you would:
• Deliver what‘s advertised – “don’t feel scammed”.
• Attentively listen to complaints and move to solve the problem.
• Do what you say you were going to do – and if you can’t, say why.

2. Practice Your Values
This involves actually doing what you say you value. A critical part of strong leadership is the degree to which what you profess and what you practice are in alignment. Here’s an exercise to do each week.

• Pick one value you want to practice. Don’t be an over-achiever and try to accomplish more. Start small and then build.
• Ask how can I demonstrate this value? For example, if it’s “respect”, then who are the folks I want to show respect to and how will I do it? It could be as simple as not interrupting Mary when she gets long winded.
• Assess the end of the week what specific things you did to exemplify this particular value? What might have been opportunities you missed? For example, when Joe came in to my office and said…. I could have said this…..
• Pick another value and go through the same process the following week. What you’ll find is awareness plus focus plus motivation leads to change.

3. Reinforce Your Values
Reinforcement involves recognition and possible reward for specific behavior. This can be done through positive feedback when you see an employee treating a customer with integrity; or it could be part of the annual performance appraisal process. And it can be by storytelling – a powerful way to communicate what we value and how we behave around here.

The $125,000 Thank You
All companies go through tough times but it’s the way they handle it that makes a difference. For example, Armstrong International, a number of years ago, had to put a wage freeze into effect to get through what looked like a very difficult year. Right from the start, management was up front with the employees talking about how they plan to handle this challenge.

He then lifted the sheet and everyone saw, to their amazement, a table covered with $10 bills; some 12,500 of them – stacked two feet high. One by one, each employee came up and was told, “Thank you for your understanding and commitment to Armstrong.” Each walked away with forty crisp, new $10 bills

This story has been told over and over again by employees and by the media because it demonstrates very clearly the values of the company – Honesty – Fairness – Respect – Trust – Loyalty.

Smart Moves Tip:

Values are important. They describe how you relate to your staff, customers, investors and suppliers. Numbers tell you how much there is of something, not if it is right. Values tell you whether something is right for you and your organization. And when values have been defined in behavioral terms then you, as a leader, can manage the people and processes more effectively

Marcia Zidle:

The Business Edge with Marcia Zidle, your Smart Moves Coach, delivers practical advice to help business leaders take the growing pains out of growth. Are you facing overwhelming demands on your time? Are costly mistakes eating into your profits? Are you facing increased expectations from customers and clients and the need to strike a better balance in your life? Now’s the time to stop spending your energy managing problems and start doing your real work: growing your business to the next level and beyond. Learn to create a growth agenda to get your business on the right track and keep it there. Rev up your growth engine with exceptional talent. Develop the right kind of leadership to move it forward fast. Start by tuning in to The Business Edge, airing live every Wednesday at 11 AM Pacific Time.