How Values Unify and Enhance—Especially During Tough Times

May 24, 2019

When an organization is living by its values, customers come to trust the brand. Over time, the brand itself becomes valuable. Apple provides a good example. In 2018 it became the first public company in the world to be valued at $1 trillion—and this year Forbes listed the company as the world’s most valuable business brand. While Apple’s mission has evolved since its founding in 1976, the company’s core values have remained the same, including:

  1. We believe that we’re on the face of the Earth to make great products that will change the world.
  2. We believe in the simple, not the complex.
  3. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products we make.

People who love Apple products are devoted to the brand, because they trust in Apple’s values and believe that when they buy from Apple, they’ll be getting high-quality, user-friendly products.

Allowing values—rather than personalities—to strengthen the brand is especially important for an organization’s long-term health. Founder Steve Jobs was the high-profile face of Apple for many years, yet because the company stayed true to its core values, Apple survived his death in 2011 and the brand remains strong. This points up a key truth: When an organization truly manages by its values, there is only one boss: the company’s values.

Putting Values into Action

Success does not come through proclaiming the values but through people consistently putting them into daily action. But how do you assure that this happens—especially when your organization is large?

Putting values into action doesn’t happen by accident. It’s up to an organization’s leadership to assure that the values are communicated throughout the organization. Plus, leadership must make an ongoing effort to assure that systems and processes are aligned with the stated values.

As the Chief Spiritual Officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies, Ken Blanchard uses a voice-to-text feature on his smartphone each morning to leave an email message for every Blanchard associate in the US, Canada, and United Kingdom. Ken has been sending out these morning messages almost every day for more than twenty years. Why? Because he wants to encourage people to be their best and remind them of the company’s mission and values.

Values can inspire the kind of passion that helps people remain committed when the going gets tough. For example, after September 11, 2001, The Ken Blanchard Companies, like many businesses, began losing money at an alarming rate. When someone suggested a layoff, members of the leadership team checked the idea against the company’s values of ethical behavior, relationships, success, and learning. Was the decision to let people go at such a difficult time ethical? To many, the answer was no. There was a general feeling that the staff had made the company what it was; putting people out on the street after a crisis was not the right thing to do. Did the decision honor the high value the organization placed on relationships? No, it did not. But what could be done? The company could not go on bleeding money and be successful.

Knowing that “none of us is as smart as all of us,” the leadership team decided to draw on the knowledge and talents of the entire staff. At an all-company meeting, the books were opened to show everyone how much the company was bleeding, and from where. This unleashed a torrent of ideas and commitment around increasing revenues and cutting costs.

Over the next two years, the organization’s finances gradually turned around. In 2004 it produced the highest sales in its history and soon after, the entire company—350 people strong—flew to Maui for a four-day celebration.

Values unify. They foster emotional commitment and lead to pride in an organization. When aligned around shared values and united in a common purpose, ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary results. So if you’re looking to give your organization a competitive edge, consider investing some time and effort into training your people to manage by values.

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