leadership values and engagement

More than likely, your values stink

As someone who has been obsessed with truth, beliefs, and values since I was about twelve, I feel qualified to tell you:

Your values probably stink.

Now, if that didn’t raise your hackles, bear with me.

Most leaders, including you, don’t have a clue where to start when creating their company values. And without a doubt, it’s keeping you from having a great company.

When I went on a journey to discover the values for Clear and Open, I reconnected to my martial arts roots and drew upon the code of the samurai. Japanese culture has a long history of principled thinking, and the samurai were deeply committed to living what they thought was right. They mindfully embodied their eight virtues and achieved greatness for nearly 700 years as a result.

So why should you care?

People mostly don’t like their work. According to Gallup, only about 33% of U.S. employees are engaged. Consider that.

A full two-thirds of your people aren’t bringing anywhere near their best effort to work.

Oh, and if they tell you they love their job, it doesn’t mean anything.

According to a 2014 study, the top drivers of engagement are belief in senior leadership and employee growth and development. Now, we’ve got something we can start working with.

Upstream of both of these are your values, and you can easily go wrong here. Without rigorous effort and attention to detail, your values will likely come across as clichéed business-speak that actually lowers morale instead of raising it.

I want to solve this problem for you.

Your employees want a meaning-based workplace where they grow as people and are inspired by leaders they look up to. Eighty percent of employees felt more engaged when their work was consistent with the core values their organization. Eight-five percent said they were likely to stay longer with an employer that showed a high level of social responsibility.

In short, values really do matter.

The reason for this and the challenge are the same: we live in a society with eroding values. Have you noticed? It’s the same reason tattoos are so popular these days: people are starving for meaningful self-expression, ritual, and connection with a tribe they resonate with. Apparently all those Facebook friends aren’t filling the hole.

For leaders and managers, this is a competitive opportunity. Workplaces that offer a meaning-based culture, embodied values, and rigorous employee development will attract and retain top talent. Everyone else loses. It’s that simple, because you can’t sustainably deliver a great product or service with disengaged people.

I wanted the core values of Clear and Open to be universal, such that any business could adopt them as a foundation for their own. While each business culture is unique, there are universal principles that underlie all human excellence.

But you must realize it’s not enough to have your values posted on the office wall. They must be lived. When someone exhibits a value, they need public praise. When someone fails to do so, they need a private development meeting. For people to believe in their leaders, they must know what they stand for and see that they’re standing for it.

For people to grow, they need to see clearly where they don’t embody the universal values of human greatness, and they need a mentor who cares enough about them to hold up a mirror. [Click to Tweet]

Are you a leader your people look up to? Engagement begins with how you show up.

Clear and Open Members are trained and challenged to embody these eight virtues. Click here to learn more about becoming a member, and deepen your ability to engage people.

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