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“If there is one thing that companies are learning in the current economic crisis, it is the importance of resilience-the ability to withstand and overcome business, economic, and societal shocks.” –Richard Barrett, Barrett Values Centre
In good economic times, most businesses can maintain a sufficient profit margin. The businesses that are profitable in a poor or struggling economy, however, are those that have identified internal and external strategies for growth, sustainability, and longevity. The difference between companies that can weather an economic storm and those that cannot is a business model driven by values, rather than dollar signs. Values-driven organizations have been able to withstand the test of time, achieving success and maintaining resilience even when economic circumstances have made competitors throw in the towel.
Encouraging, developing, and maintaining a values-driven culture in a company is essential to prosperity. Values-driven organizations ultimately achieve a higher level of performance that increases cost savings, improves service levels, and supports sustainability for continued business growth and success. Implementing this strong set of company values is the foundation on which a company can build its success. Richard Barrett describes a values-driven culture as “using values to drive decision making so that you consciously create the future you want to experience.” The goal of any successful company is to know that its future is secure and profitable, and having this foundation of values can help ensure that resilience is maintained over time and the company is constantly working towards the highest level of achievement possible.
There are many reasons to implement a values-driven culture. Typically, values-driven organizations operate at a higher level of production, enjoy greater employee satisfaction, and have better employee retention. An employee that feels that his or her individual skills, values, and opinions are recognized and appreciated tends to be more productive and take greater joy in his or her work. Additionally, increased employee productivity translates into a higher capacity for the company to grow while reducing costs for clients, resulting in a positive outcome for all parties involved.
Developing a values system within an organization supports the development of cultural resilience. Cultural resilience is a company’s ability to remain stable when faced with even the toughest financial, developmental, or cultural challenges. In order to achieve cultural resilience, a company must take the time to determine the core values on which it is built, as well as the values it will work to achieve in the future.
The most resilient companies display the following characteristics:
• A shared set of values
• A commitment to the common good
• A high level of staff engagement, and
• A shared vision of the future
These qualities lead companies to develop internal cohesion. According to Barrett, “being strong on the inside means having a values-driven culture and a highly aligned and effective leadership team.” Organizations that are strong on the inside are also strong on the outside, and a fortified internal values structure can operate outside the company through values-driven decision-making and community engagement. Having both internal and external strength, along with clearly defined and communicated vision/mission statements and values, can enable any company to attain the resilience and adaptability necessary for fulfillment and success.
There are seven different levels of awareness at which businesses operate. Most businesses fall into one of the first three levels, which include the pursuit of profit and shareholder value, the development of relationships that sustain corporate needs, and the support of best practices in day-to-day operations. When a business achieves a level of awareness that exceeds best practices, they have entered a state of continuous renewal, defined as the promotion of learning and innovation, teambuilding, and empowerment of staff to succeed and pursue fulfillment in their work.
The level of continuous renewal is often where companies reach their capacity for growth in terms of awareness. Businesses can often sustain profits at this level, but further growth and longevity continue to be challenging, particularly in tough economic times. Successfully overcoming these obstacles requires a dedicated leadership team and complete commitment of staff. The highest levels of awareness include a positive, creative corporate culture that supports shared visions and values; collaboration with customers and the local community through strategic alliances, employee fulfillment, and environmental stewardship; and long term perspective and service to humanity for the purpose of improving and empowering future generations.
It is critical that companies develop leaders at each level of the company and encourage them to operate at all levels of awareness in order to maintain success. These full-spectrum leaders must be able to make values-based decisions in order to drive long-term success, sustainability, and adaptability. In Corporate Culture and Performance, Harvard Business School researchers Kotter and Heskett emphasize the significance of adaptive cultures:
Adaptive culture entails risk-taking, trusting, and a proactive approach to organizational and individual life. Members actively support one another’s efforts to identify all problems and implement workable solutions. There is a shared feeling of confidence: the members believe, without a doubt, that they can effectively manage whatever new problems or opportunities will come their way. There is widespread enthusiasm, a spirit of doing whatever it takes to achieve organizational success. The members are receptive to change and innovation.
Translating intangible values into tangible results for both the business and the community are critical indicators of a successful values-based culture. Although the developmental phase is important for determining the existing and desired values of an organization, implementation proves to be the only way that long-term benefits will be realized. Efficient results tracking methods and a plan for achieving the desired key performance indicators (KPIs) gives leaders and team members the ability to effectively measure improvements.
A balanced business is a successful business, and managing KPIs by measuring results is the best way to ensure that the path to developing and implementing a values-driven culture is profitable and enjoyable. Values-driven organizations invariably realize increased cost savings, improved service levels, and sustainability for continued business growth and success. When leaders walk the talk, and members are fully invested in making a difference both internally and externally, any company can improve performance while creating a legacy that will support and empower individuals today while positively impacting many generations to come.
“Living our LEGACY includes those actions driving what we value and live “into” each day. As we shift from “Self-Driven” leaders to LEGACY Leaders our new qualities will generate a series of experiences between us and others…And as we practice or demonstrate these new behaviors, over time, they become written into the lives of others.” –Ken Porter, Chief Learning Officer, TMSi Logistics
Ron Cain is the chairman and CEO of TMSi Logistics, which is headquartered in New Hampshire. He can be reached at (603) 373-7233, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.