Recently I spoke at a symposium in Little Rock sponsored by the Better Business Bureau and John Brown University. The theme of the symposium was Surviving the Next Three to Five Years with Integrity. Since I can’t hear “three to five year” time frame without thinking strategy and “integrity” without considering ethics and values, I chose to speak on the importance of values, both personal and corporate, in establishing strategy.
Values are the guiding principles of an organization; they govern the actions and behaviors of everyone from the CEO to the intern. Values are more than a list of great words. They are the great behaviors being demonstrated as key decisions are made within an organization, and they provide the cohesion necessary to ensure that strategy is well-executed. So how do you determine what your true values are? Ask two key questions:
What principles drive our purpose?
What behaviors drive our success stories?
Who do you ask? Employees are a great starting point! Then ask other stakeholders, whether that includes customers, donors, or the community at large.
Several years ago, Booz Allen and the Aspen Institute did a study on corporate behavior by surveying senior executives on the factors important to strategy that are strongly affected by values. The top seven are:
- Adaptability to changing conditions
- Corporate reputation
- Customer loyalty
- Operational efficiency/productivity
- Earning growth
- Product quality/innovation
- Employee recruitment and retention
In addition, the study indicates 1) ethical behavior is a core component of company activities, 2) values influence relationships and reputation in particular, and 3) CEO tone matters. Finally, the Booz Allen study determined that most companies do not believe they have the ability to measure a direct link between values, revenue and earnings growth; however top performing companies are successful in linking values to growth in financial performance.
Whether your organization is a for profit or a nonprofit, strong revenue generation is critical to success. However, as a nonprofit, revenue is not our “end game,” it is a tool for us to achieve our end game – our mission – to unite our community to empower people and improve lives. We strive to do this in a way that demonstrates integrity, with all of our actions demonstrating the high value we place on the community in Northwest Arkansas.