Values R Us?

Despite what you might think, as a leader you are watched. All the time.

Disconcerting as it might be, your words, your actions, your inactions are scrutinised constantly by your staff. In one medium-sized professional services firm we worked with, the staff could always tell how a Partners’ meeting had gone by whether or not the Senior Partner closed the door to his room after it was finished (and whether he slammed it or not). And that news gets round.

So it’s perhaps not surprising that the 2016 UK Great Place to Work survey shows a 40%+ difference between the average and best workplace scores when it comes to the question “does management’s actions match their words?”.

At the heart of this is the difference between what people are told is important to the organisation – its values as shown on the large print posters pinned up around the building, the words spoken at town hall meetings – and what they experience themselves in practice.

None of us is perfect as a leader. But it serves us well to regularly keep asking ourselves several questions:

  • What did I do today that lived the values?
  • What did I do today that could be experienced as not living the values – how could I have approached that differently?
  • What have said about others’ behaviours that could be said about me?
  • When did I last ask for feedback? From whom and how have I taken this on board?

Reflection and learning are two key skills for leaders. It’s far too easy to get caught in the everyday busyness or the strategic challenges and forget one of the key factors that enable us to be credible as leaders – to do as we say!