Updated: May 17, 2020
Like trying to steer a ship without a rudder, leading a company without a clearly articulated vision will eventually lead to aimless wanderings or more disastrous results. A clear vision of why your company exists and what your company intends to do to achieve that why will help to ensure alignment throughout the organization and help articulate your mission to your customers and other external stakeholders.
The importance of vision cannot be understated, however, having a set of core values to direct how the company will operate in carrying out its mission is equally important. While the vision sets the course for the company, the core values form the cultural environment that ensures the Company will stay on course.
Staying on course takes both passion and purpose, and the core values of the company must address both of these in order to be effective. I like to say that the “head” and the “heart” of your company must be aligned and your core values set the framework for this alignment. Oftentimes I see companies emphasizing more head values or more heart values. But like a good marriage, balancing the head and the heart values is the key to a lasting, fulfilling and successful venture.
If we approach business with more head than heart, we tend to emphasize results or efficiency, oftentimes at the expense of the key relationships needed to achieve those results. When results are not achieved, the tendency in a head-driven company is typically to make quick decisions for the sake of efficiency without a view towards the long-term implications of these economic decisions or the impact on the moral of the company.
On the other hand, if we approach our business with more heart than head, we tend to emphasize relationships over results or efficiency. While this tends to create a welcoming environment, less emphasis on values like accountability can result in an undisciplined culture that leads to acceptance of poor performance and excuses for missing deadlines and other targets in the name of “getting along” or “good is good enough”. Over time, this develops a pattern of inconsistent performance and customer dissatisfaction.
So how do we balance the head and the heart of business through our core values? For starters, it is important as leaders that we first search our own hearts and minds before answering that question. One thing is certain, a set of company core values are meant to be lived out rather than be mere words on a page. As a leader, you must be willing to “walk the talk” and model these values to the best of your ability. This requires authenticity and humility.
In searching ourselves for our core values and evaluating the balance in our own lives, it is important to remember that core values are the things that we hold dear and strive to achieve. These are our non-negotiables of the “how” we strive to lead our lives and in turn, lead our companies.
Having done our own internal assessment of our core values, this same process should also be done by everyone on the leadership team. The collective team core values then need to be discussed and debated to help formulate a consensus of the company core values that are fully aligned with the company vision and will help to ensure the mission is achieved. Once this is done, it is critical that the company vision and core values are clearly communicated, regularly celebrated and consistently implemented.
In my former role as CEO of Pamlab, Inc., a specialty pharmaceutical company in Southeast Louisiana, my senior team and I developed a servant leadership culture that was articulated under the acronym VERITAS. Each letter of VERITAS stood for a core value and collectively these values helped us lead the company to great success. VERITAS became the shining light that helped us maintain our course to achieve our stated mission of helping patients achieve better clinical outcomes and enjoy life.
Over the next several postings I will unpack more details about VERITAS and how these core values helped create a flourishing culture at Pamlab and hopefully inspire you to do the same for your company. Doing so may be the greatest gift you could ever give to your employees.