It’s not only what you say that counts, it’s what you do.
Actions speak louder than words. I remember when I first heard that saying. I was five years old and I was standing on a footstool beside my Grandmother as she played the piano. She stopped playing, turned to me and said, "A piece of sheet music is only scribbles on paper unless it is played.” Then she said life is like that, too. Like sheet music, the notes are words and unless put into action mean little. I remember puzzling over those words and then she simplified it for me … "It's not only what you say that counts, it's what you do."
Over the years I have used that simple wisdom in working with leaders and teams. “It’s not only what you say that counts, it’s what you do” directly relates to the vision, mission and core values a business adopts to stay the course, prosper and provide meaningful work. The test is whether employees know how what they do contributes to the vision, mission and bottom line. And, what it feels like to work in the business directly relates to values – or the lack of them.
Core values are where the concept, “it’s not only what you say that counts, it’s what you do”, is best known. They define the culture and drive decisions, conflict resolution policies, reward and recognition systems, compensation plans, succession policies, and overall group process.
Core values also form customer service policies, hiring decisions and are clearly visible in how employees treat one another on a daily basis. Core values though inclusion or omission form the foundation of an organization's integrity. They also create the group boundaries and cultural ground rules that allow organizations to track and measure behavior expectations throughout all levels of operation.
In the next few articles, we will explore six collaborative core values that build ethical, quality-focused and successful teams. The six values are trust, interdependence, genuineness, empathy, risk and success. For now, here are few ways organizations that are anchored in values use them in core business functions.
1. Interviewing employee candidates using demonstration and experience-based questions:
Let's say a company selects trust as a core value. Trust, then, becomes a 360 degree standard for behavior. One interviewing question might be, “How did you demonstrate trust with your coworkers in previous work experiences?”
The bottom line is that employees whose values are not in alignment with company values either pose a problem for the business or the business poses a problem for them.
2. Rewards and Recognition:
By identifying favorable behaviors that support your corevalues, leaders are able to recognize them when they happen and reward behavior improvements. Valuable rewards come in the form of praise, letters to family, company postings, and other non-monetary forms.
Likewise, new employees who understand the behavior ground rules and know what is expected tend to do better than those left to negotiate cultural landmines. Unlike the TV show, Survivor, they are less likely to be “voted off the Island” for showing initiative and for sharing fresh insights and perspectives.
3. Performance Reviews
Core values exclusively named in the boardroom can create animosity among employees. One way to avoid this is to ask employees to identify specific behaviors that support the core value at their respective levels.
For example, if trust is a company value then following through on what a person says they are going to do is a measurable behavior throughout the organization from department to department, leader to team member, employee to employee and from company to customers.
Organizations that experience high levels of employee unrest and poor morale would benefit from a core value review. The bottom line is that actions speak louder than words and if the vision, mission and values are represented one way and played out another, how they are experienced carries the weight.