Today’s post is the featured article from the June 2007 issue of  The Front Porch Newsletter.  If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.

blumbergface1I used to like to put up a lot of decorations for the Holidays. Some people said, “If it doesn’t move, he decorates it!” The opposite could be said in corporations today … if it moves they measure it! Measurement is big and most everything gets measured. Technology has enhanced our ability to measure many things quickly … but not everything. Sometimes I wonder if we measure what is easy-to-measure rather than what is most-importantto-measure. Some things are important and easy to measure. Financial performance is one of them. It helps us ascertain the stewardship of our resources and allows us to assess our FC … Financial Capital. Many organizations have embraced various forms of employee development to enhance their HC … Human Capital. But what about your VC … Values Capital? Imagine opening the financial section of the newspaper to not only find the stock price for each company, but also their VCI … Values Capital Index. Imagine looking in the mirror at the end of each month and calculating your personal VCI. It just might change everything. What is so tough about values is that “on-the-surface” they are so easy to cognitively understand. But what we know and what we do are two totally different stories.

I find it a bit alarming in seeing how so many employees don’t actually know the stated values of their own organization. I hear comments like “I don’t know the exact words, but I have a ‘gut’ feel for what they are.” I would submit that reliance on a “gut-feel” is a dangerous formula in an environment where speed and the pressures of performance and measurements are king of the hill. Even more alarming are those who admit that their company doesn’t really have any “stated” values per se. Yikes! Why not just take a ride on the Titanic and hope, with global warming, that the story comes out different the second time around.

Recently, I was doing a presentation immediately following the CEO of one of my major clients. It was part of a program for on-boarding a new group of professionals. Hearing his presentation was refreshingly hopeful. I have never heard a CEO hit the issue of values so directly. He recommended the following:
1. Get to know and understand our stated values. He didn’t hand them out. He challenged them to go seek them out.
2. Live those values each and every day. He left no misunderstanding that they were fully expected to live them in their decisions, interactions and delivery of service. He proceeded to share each value from memory … and the method in how he remembers them.
3. Become an ambassador for the values by holding others accountable. This may have been the hardest part of his challenge: It is one thing to know them and decide to live them. It is another to be big enough to hold others accountable when you see the values not being followed.
4. If you see a value in which you disagree, come see me. He told them he would be glad to change a value if they convinced him it was not a good one. Otherwise, he concluded, if I decide it is still a good value and you can’t live with it … then going somewhere else will probably be your next best move.

His passion around the organizational core values could not have been clearer. It was refreshing and I think those sitting in the audience were inspired by his commitment and call to accountability.

Most organizations are going to measure results … and you are mostly likely to get what you measure. Which is why I always say … be careful what you measure because you are probably going to get it! Measurements are effective in creating intended results. But they can also create an unintended systemic impact. Imagine the difference, if you had a concrete list of your personal and organizational values and each month you created your own VCI … Values Capital Index. It may very well be your best insurance policy against the unintended systemic impacts of all your other measurements … with a guaranteed positive impact on your team-building, retention, and service.

Maybe pondering a few questions would be a good place to start:
1. Does my organization have a stated list of values? If yes, do I have those committed to memory?
2. Are our values just nice words for a brochure or a framed plaque on the wall … or do we proactively discuss our values when evaluating decisions, investments of resources, initiatives or as guidelines in relationships?
3. Do I speak-up when I see interaction or decisions that are misaligned with our values?
4. Do I have a list of my own core values? Are they tucked away in a drawer or accessed on a frequent basis?
5. How do my stated values align with my organization’s values? How do my own values provide opportunity to take real ownership for the values of my organization? Where are the differences that I need to reconcile?
Ask a few questions and plant the seeds for creating your own Values Capital Index!!

Action Idea for the month: Answer the questions above and then commit to action by considering the following:
1. Make a list of your own personal core values
2. If not readily available, seek out your organization’s core values
3. Begin to engage the organization values as part of the discussion at meetings, in decisions, in your everyday work relationships
4. Make the organization values visible to all (e.g. list at the bottom of every agenda, create a screen saver, post them on a flip chart at every meeting, etc.)
5. Create your own personal and organizational VCI … and measure monthly!