Marketers tend to place a lot of importance on terms like “purpose” and “authenticity.” Why? Because research results, survey results, and numerous other studies show that these things are important to customers. Purposeful leadership is something much more important.
Brands that exist for more than just profit—and can make that goal clear—usually succeed. On the other hand, those who behave differently than their message are punished by consumers. They are not who they say they are and customers would rather not do business with them.
If you are running a value-driven company that requires its employees to live up to certain ideals, you will have many difficult decisions to make. If you stay true to the values that guide your company, you are likely to be rewarded by consumers who share those values.
This is often easier said than done. Leaders of purpose-driven companies play by a different set of rules. In a sense, strict adherence to certain values makes leadership easier, as some decisions require less thought or can be avoided altogether.
There will be times when sticking to your goal is not always pleasant. Here are three strategies to help you successfully lead your team in the direction of your company’s values.
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1. Consider How Far The Vision Has Taken You.
Your company’s values and mission define its culture. A strong culture tied to your organization’s values will make your work more rewarding. In fact, a strong culture leads to more engaged employees. It’s critical to reflect on your organization’s accomplishments and link those accomplishments to your company’s values and vision.
It can also help you reflect on the values that helped build your company. Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, president and CEO of Earth Friendly Products, which makes ECOS environmentally friendly cleaning products, says her father founded the company in 1967. Its goal: to produce safer products for people, pets and the earth. She explains“Greece was my father’s birthplace and he grew up with a reverence for the importance of family, health and balance with the natural world.” The company’s products continue to focus on these values and appeal to consumers who are also passionate about their health and the planet. This approach has led to quadrupled sales since the beginning of the decade.
2. Determine When Personal Goal and Team Goal Match.
Incorporate your organization’s values into your hiring and onboarding process: in candidate interviews, offer letters, training materials, and an employee handbook. Reward and highlight employee actions that exemplify the company’s values and vision. Stuart Parker, USAA CEO, carries a personal challenge coin, similar to those used by military leaders to recognize exemplary service. One side is engraved with his personal mission and the other with USAA’s guiding values. He made coins for all team members as a reminder that their personal values should underscore the values of the company, and vice versa.
It is often helpful to take the time to articulate personal values clearly. If you find it difficult for your team to work, give team members the opportunity to reflect on the values that guide them as individuals. Together, identify work that aligns with those personal values, adding value to the team. When personal and team values match, great things happen.
3. Don’t Chase Outside Validation.
Great leaders don’t look for external validation of their decisions. They define different values and subsequently live and lead according to those values, which results in affirmation from within. However, the desire for external confirmation is strong and all-pervasive. Encouraging this desire can lead to the abandonment of all values, which is bad for both the business and the people who succumb to it. The list of those who have been fooled by outside scrutiny is long.
Take GE’s Jeff Immelt, who took the reins in 2001 and shared a rosy picture of performance despite share price has plummeted. John Stumpf has been focused on maintaining a successful appearance since taking over as CEO of Wells Fargo in 2007, later saying he was oblivious to 3.5 million fake customer accounts created during this time. If you’re focused on external validation, you too may be missing out on what’s right under your nose.
Regardless of your company’s values, you have a responsibility to ensure that those values are not just words displayed in your office. Bearing this responsibility can be difficult at times, but if you do it successfully, your company will truly make its mark on the world.