A few days ago, Frank Sonnenberg (www.franksonnenberg.com) wrote an article entitled Leadership: Promoting Beliefs and Values. He stated that great leaders never miss an opportunity to reinforce their organisations beliefs and values because it is these beliefs and values that form the core of an organisations culture. Quite rightly he goes on to posit that these beliefs and values affect the norms of behaviour and can change attitudes and this is why management must support them by clear and visible actions.
He goes on to list a number of very significant questions that test a firm’s commitment to its values. I recommend you read the article in full. It can be found here.
However, I’d like to play devil’s advocate for a few minutes and maybe turn the whole idea on its head!
I believe that the natural order of things in a firm is for the owner/founder/CEO/Leader to hire in his own image. By that, I mean, you tend to surround yourself with people that have very similar beliefs and values. I agree that as a firm grows this may become more difficult and more fractionalised but in essence the principle is true.
With this in mind, is it likely that core beliefs and values are at risk? You might say that if the guy at the top is not consistent then the firm’s culture will not be consistent. In this case, I would argue that such inconsistency will lead the firm to failure so the leader is not a true leader.
In my firm, we have identified four key behavioural areas; Driving for Results, Working Together, Making Great Decisions and Doing it Right. When we interview potential new employees, we spend as much time as needed to understand the candidate’s attitudes and values in each behavioural area. We have developed a series of primary and secondary questions designed to solicit opinion and anecdote in each area. The primary reason for this approach is to ensure we continue to hire people that fit the culture.
My hypothesis is that by building structures that ensure you continue to hire to fit the culture and by simple consistency of message the firm’s culture will always be self-healing.
Our vision, our clear picture of the future, is still in its formative stages. After reading Full Steam Ahead by Ken Blanchard and Jesse Stoner, I threw out the old vision statement and have started the process of jointly developing a vision so that we can be “Full Steam Ahead”… but you need to read the book to fully understand that concept!