In a year the news has been dominated by overwhelmingly negative headlines, a beacon of positivity shone this week with the news that Yvon Chouinard, the billionaire founder of Patagonia, would transfer ownership of his company to fight the climate crisis. The act not only highlights Chouinard as a genuinely selfless individual working for the Greater-Good, but is also a bold reinforcement of Patagonia’s core organisational values.
Almost every organisation has some statement of what they stand for: values, a credo, principles, or behaviours. But most leaders operate in a world where a corporate statement can mean very little. For both leaders and their people, the values have simply become tired.
As a leader, what can you do about that? Rather than try and redesign the values statement, my advice would be to focus on your own relationship with values.
1. Focus on being values-led
Being values-led is much more important than adhering to one particular value or another. It means taking decisions and behaving in ways which sometimes make you take a risk. Why? Because something you believe in is more important than short term benefits, such as being popular or having a quick financial gain. Yes, it requires courage, but if you and your team can work on that, you'll find people start perceiving you as an organisation which adheres to its values.
2. Front up
When you don't hit the standard which builds trust, even on occasions where you're not walking the talk. Take a look at the CEO of Luftansa doing just that in the midst of a strike. This one requires courage too.
3. Find one value you love and work that one hard
Your legacy as a leader can be built on just one value. Teamwork. Customer-Centric. Accountable. Each one of those is an admirable pursuit.
4. Refer to the values as often as you can
Their inspiration will come not from the words, but from your passion about their sentiment. When you reference a corporate value in relation to a particular decision or behaviour, you are educating others in the vast depth of interpretation which no single values statement can ever achieve. The actual words then become a shorthand for something much more purposeful.
It's easy to blame your organisation for not living up to their values. But remember: there's lots you can do to make them come alive. For yourself, and for your people. And Yvon Chouinard is a shining example of this.