You can’t predict every situation your employee will run into, but you can give them the answer on how to handle it.
Most companies these days have developed some form of organizational values. Sometimes they’re printed on a wall, or maybe you put them on T-shirts and business cards. The problem can be that even as much as you try to promote them inside the business, they can still be forgotten.
That can be a problem because they are an important aspect for the employees that run your business.
When we think about systems inside a business, we typically picture IT, computer systems, and technology that allow people to do their work better and faster. But there are also systems that help make people consistently better at doing their jobs, like engaging with customers. We might call these standard operating procedures or SOPs. The idea here is to help define how people should act or react in different scenarios in a preplanned manner that is designed to get the best outcome.
A great example is McDonald’s. If you run a McDonald’s franchise, there are hundreds of SOPs that help you make decisions based on all the different scenarios you’re likely to encounter. It’s thanks to those SOPs that when you go into a McDonald’s, whether it’s in San Francisco or Beijing, or Amsterdam, your experience, and the food you eat, will be remarkably similar. Trust me, I’ve sampled. When you have a defined system like that, SOPs can be a very powerful system.
What do you do when the rulebook doesn’t apply
Our values tell us how to make decisions collectively, a kind of North Star everyone inside the business can point to for direction.
That’s why your values are also a big part of the culture of the business and help shape how formal or informal it is, how flexible or rigid. When people begin to live the values of the business daily, it becomes the culture.
That’s why values are often aspirational–they paint a picture of how you want the company to act and operate.
But you must be realistic. We see examples all the time where companies say they have an impressive list of values. But they don’t walk the walk. A prime example is Enron, which, infamously, had “integrity” as one of its values even as it manipulated energy markets to its benefit.
So, maybe it’s time to take another look at the values of your business. See what’s printed on your business cards and ask yourself if that’s how your company is truly acting. If not, it might be time for a reboot, because building and living a set of values everyone can believe in and aspire to will be a big part of the success of your business moving into the future.