Saturday, March 8, 2008

Values: what would you stand in front of a moving train for?

I believe that once one decides to do something, it is inevitable that one will succeed. It is simply a matter of cause and effect. This is true in life and in business. The thing is, how often do we decide to do something on purpose - something great and grand that can change the every day of at least one person? How many times do we think about what we are giving, or contributing, to this life of ours?

My guess is not often enough. I like to look at the greatest people of our time, and I am sure they had a plan. More importantly they had a set of values that they would stand in front of a moving train for.

Nelson Mandela once said that the leadership is about having a value, and then taking every possible opportunity to make it known to other so they can act on it to. Another great leader recently said, if you look at a companies balance sheet, that will tell what the the leaders of that organization value.

I can see values in ones life being important, because they are intrinsic to who we are, and what we believe in and live. In fact, our laws (the balance sheet of our society) are laced with values such as freedom, responsibility for others, honesty and to safety.

In the corporate setting, values have a role to play there too. They are the parameters of the 9 to 5 society. They are like promises. Most corporations or large organizations have some kind of stated values. Things like commitment, honesty, integrity and respect. But the question is, in the work place, how do we know that we are living these values, and if we are not, what are the consequences?

The answer is that there are both short and long term ramifications to ignoring one's values, whether it is a person or an organization. In an organization, if the leadership ignores the stated values and breaks these promises, then you can expect to see the business suffer. People become disengaged when they see that leaders do not walk the talk. Turnover rates go up, and there goes the ROI for employee development dollars and time invested. Not to mention, productivity. It takes approximately one year to get the average employee up to speed in a new job, which includes learning the job, the tasks, the culture (how things get done) and then how to become part of the culture.

All this means the company not only loses money, but it can't turn on a dime, and therefore may not be able to respond to market place challenges and changes if the leaders are not able to lead.

Ignoring values are costly. There is always a price tag. They are not just words on a the back of the annual report, on posted on the wall, they are the true test of today's leaders.

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