From Surviving to Thriving, why Values-led leadership is the only leadership style you need

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I’m sure that you’ve visited countless offices over the years where organisational values are printed on the wall, displayed proudly for all employees to see. This may even be the case in your own company. Yet how many times have you or your colleagues raised an eyebrow at what feels like an empty list of terms stood before you. There is SO much cynicism around company values that it often feels like the four words which took hours to brainstorm merely exist to tick a box.

So, let me ask you, how often do you or the leaders in your company check in with team members to find out what they do (or don’t do) that aligns with organisational values? How often do you ask your employees what those values really mean to them personally?

Regardless of your answers I want you to take note of one thing today and that’s – behaviour drives culture, not words. It has never been more important to drive positive company culture than now, to ensure effective recovery post-pandemic. There are actions leaders at all levels can take on a daily basis to ensure company values are not just slogans, but recognised, role-modelled, and rewarded behaviours, lived out by every employee. But how do you do this? How do you go from values simply being words on a page to having a meaningful impact and influence on your people? You become a Values-led Leader. Here is how I set about achieving that through my business Geon Training Solutions.

1. Spend Time Defining Values

Every team member will have a slightly different experience of company values, which is why conversations to interrogate these values are essential. For Geon I took huge inspiration from Brené Brown’s book and podcast series Dare to Lead. Dare to Lead explores all things relationships, vulnerability, shame and being present, aligning each area with a strong focus on leadership. The basis of Dare to Lead formed as the perfect narrative to help my business through this journey. Click here to read more about the process we walked through.

2. Motivation is Key

Values are our most natural motivators. If an employee’s motives align with the values of organisation, they will be in complete flow. When a business espouses values, yet does not see these lived out, this is generally because their people are not motivated. Not every value will be universally appealing, so it was my job to not only to say the words, but to motivate each person at Geon to collaborate and engage with them. How did I do that? Well, I asked my employees to explore their 2 main personal values, to identify where alignment with our company values existed. Why just two? Well despite most people having a tendency to identify with 10, maybe even 20 values, if too many values on the list are deemed important, then nothing is truly a driver.

3. Keep it Meaningful

I’m sure by now you will have gathered that taking a blanket leadership approach when creating a values-led environment is impossible. As leaders, our job is to interact regularly with each employee in our business, ideally on a one-to-one basis. It’s important to use the insights gathered from #2 to understand how your people tune into your values in order to tailor how you tune in and communicate with them. I work hard to interact with my employees in ways that are meaningful to them. To strengthen my relationship with each and every one of my team. Nurturing their own journey as well as our combined Geon growth plan.

4. Tie in Recognition

I wanted to find a way to recognise and reward people who displayed those behaviours to their colleagues, so I’m currently developing the Geon Values Awards, where people nominate their colleagues when they spot them doing good stuff. It’s so easy to catch people under-performing, but I wanted to shift the emphasis, not just in an ‘employee of the month’ sort of way, but on a day-to-day basis involving everyone in the business. When core values are repeatedly articulated and embedded into organisational systems and processes, they begin to form, mould and forge a new culture. As this occurs, the values and related behaviours begin to become the cultural norm. Over time and with constant reinforcement, your values determine how employees act every day and become “the way things are done around here”…In true Geon style!

We often hear of the need for strong leaders, results-driven leaders, servant leaders, charismatic leaders, heroic leaders, collaborative leaders, innovative leaders, tribal leaders, (the list goes on!). But what stands tall above all of these leadership styles is one thing – a Values-led approach.

Becoming the best kind of leader isn’t about emulating a role model or a historic figure. Instead, your leadership must be deep rooted in who you are and what you believe in.  

As a Values-led leader I can confidently say that my company’s values are my own values….  Are yours?  

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