Executives Set The Tone From the Top. How are You Living the Values?

Executives Set The Tone From the Top. How are You Living the Values?

In the years that I have been working with leadership teams, in particular executive leadership teams, I’ve come to recognise the key elements that must be present in order for them to achieve high performance. Some of these are foundational elements and simply must be there, otherwise, the strive for high performance is not going to result in the achievement of high performance.

I’ve gathered these building blocks, if you like, together and I share them here in this model of high performance.

What you can see, at the lower levels, is a shared outlook of purpose and vision. This is the thing that drives us, the reason we exist as an organisation and, therefore, as an executive or leadership team.

Closely following this, in terms of these foundational elements, are the values.

  • What is important to us?
  • What is important to us as a team?
  • What is important in our organisation?

We need to understand what those things are because they inform behaviour. What is acceptable and what is not acceptable, in terms of the way that we operate with each other and together?

Now, this is what I know. If you do not have a shared outlook, a shared agenda if you like, and you do not have a congruence of values in your leadership team, it is very difficult to achieve significant progress and to achieve high performance.

I remember years ago, when I was working in a Telco company in Australia. It was a great company, great culture. I loved my job. I was given plenty of opportunities. Leadership was good. We had a newly appointed Managing Director who had positive energy and a great drive to be even better. He also had tremendous vision and strategic thinking.

So he introduced, very early in his tenure as Managing Director, a significant transformation programme to become a values-based organisation. This was long before values-based organisations were a thing. It was radical and tremendously important.

We went through a comprehensive process where the values were in fact defined by the people in the organisation. This was not a top down process. The values were owned by the community of people and, therefore, embraced in the organisation. Of course, some people decided it wasn’t for them, and there was a dignified way for them to leave the organisation. But for those who stayed, they fell in love with the values, and they fell in love with the idea of living those values in everyday interactions and behaviour.

This showed up in things like achieving an even higher level of employee engagement, positive positioning of the brand, elevated customer service and customer experiences, and the organisation became an employer of choice. It was very powerful, because everyone was engaged in the values, opted into the values, and lived the values, especially the Managing Director and executive team.

The tone of an organisation is set from the top. And so, the leaders living the values in their behaviour, in how they show up every day, is critical to setting this tone. My dad used to say everyone’s favourite spectator sport at work is boss watching. People watch their leaders. People watch what their leaders do. They listen to what they say. And what they witness tells your people what is important. And so, it also tells them if the values are important.

A great example of where this did not go right happened back in the early 2000s, with the National Australia Bank Foreign Exchange Trading Desk debacle. A group of traders on the Foreign Exchange trading desk made some poor trades. They then covered these transactions up, hoping they could recover the losses. The reporting was falsified so no one else would find out about this financial exposure. Ultimately, it became front page news.

Now, when all was said and done, although it was the traders on the foreign exchange desk who made poor trades, who covered it up, who falsely reported, the subsequent investigation concluded that this was made possible by the leadership of the organisation because the tone is set from the top. What is acceptable and not acceptable is set at the top.

Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave them all over everything you do.

Elvis Presley

The work that I do with leadership teams often includes making sure that values are not just words on a poster or sitting on the front page of the intranet. They are something that needs to be lived and breathed every day.

I was reminded of this recently when I was working with a team where the values were not lived. In fact, the behaviour, the actions that were taking place in that leadership team, were in opposition to the values stated as being key to this organisation. This was destructive. People have resigned from the team, run for cover, and covered their own backs, rather than supporting each other. There is no longer unity and clarity and trust in this team, and this limits the ability of the team to perform at the highest level.

If you can’t be sure that your colleagues, your leadership colleagues, are engaged in and comfortable with the values of the organisation, how is it then possible to cascade those values throughout the rest of your organisation and create a culture that is the one you aspire to. A culture that enables performance, productivity, and engagement at the highest levels.  That has your people loving your organisation and wanting to offer their discretionary effort, wanting to share their ideas, wanting to give their best?

In an era when employee experience is key, when employee expectations are higher than they have ever been, setting the right tone from the top is critical. And it begins with the foundational building blocks. A shared view of what you are here to do and why. And a shared alignment about how you go about doing it based on the values, what is important.

This must inform how we do things around here in our organisation…. which in essence, is your culture in action.

I’d love to know your thoughts.

#thecoachingleader #leadershipcoach #executivecoach #leadership #leaderascoach #thenewleader #selfleadership #selfcoaching #firstleadyourself #linkedintopvoices #staceyashley #ashleycoaching #amazonbestseller #speaker #author #leadershipdevelopment #management #showup21 #powerup #youreonmute #professionalwomen #personaldevelopment



Have them delivered weekly to your inbox.