Right now, off the top of your head, could you write out or say what the vision and values are of your company? What the “why” or purpose of your company is?
If you can’t remember your company’s vision and values right now, in this moment…if it’s framed and up on a wall and you have to go look at it..or if you have to search for the piece of paper or file, then you don’t have a vision, values, or mission.
Having a clear purpose or vision is required if you want to have a strong company culture that can be sustained over time and as you grow. Without it, your company and your culture are being morphed and shaped without intention. That’s a problem.
If you have employees who aren’t a fit, it’s because your purpose isn’t clear, and isn’t articulated (and likely isn’t showing up in the decisions you make or your processes). This is creating a fuzzy culture. If you have clients who aren’t a fit, it’s for the same reason. You’ve got a culture by default versus a culture that is intentionally created.
Your purpose and values need to be your criteria for every decision you make, and all your processes need to reflect and embody them. When you actually talk about your purpose in your conversations and meetings, and when it’s reflected in everything you do, then everyone is clear.
Simon Sinek talks about the celery test. If you aren’t clear what your “why” is, then you’ll buy celery, M&M’s, ice cream, potato chips, and kale. If your “why” is health, then it’s clear that you’re only going to buy the celery and kale (and maybe some other veggies to make a green smoothie).
When your “why” is clear, articulated, and embedded, then people can either say “hell yeah” to it, or “hell no”. They will either get on or off your bus - employees and clients alike. When you have people coming into work only to get a paycheque, you’ve likely got people who are disengaged, unmotivated, and uninspired. Research shows that approximately 70% of people in the workplace are disengaged, and it’s doubtful that you’ve escaped this statistic entirely.
If you aren’t clear on your company’s “why” and you’re getting a washed out, wimpy version of “hell yeah” from your teams and the people you hire, then what do you think is keeping people there? They will leave if someone offers them more money, better benefits, and a genuine purpose.
Your culture will lack trust if people don’t know or understand how decisions are being made. You’ll have higher turnover and sick time because your employees don’t feel connected to each other, the company, or the leadership.
Conversely, when people feel connected to the “why” of the company, they see it in action every day, and they are inspired by it, then a strong sense of loyalty is created. Another company that has a fuzzy “why” and offers one of your employees a job for more money will not be enticing.
So, what do you do? How do you change your fuzzy “why”? The answer is easy: get clear on your purpose and your values. The rest is the slow and challenging part: embed these in everything. Every policy and every procedure. Make every decision through a process that aligns with and supports the “why” and your values. These should be your lens, your filter, and your touchstone. All of your communication should connect to and reflect your purpose and values. When you deviate from your purpose, vision, and values, and if you make decisions that aren’t aligned with them, that’s when your culture will get fuzzy… trust erodes, people feel disconnected, and you get high turnover. It’s a terrible cycle for everyone involved. No one wants to turn up to work only for a paycheque. Humans are not wired that way. They need purpose and intention.
Your purpose and your values should not be aspirational. They should be inspirational. Your purpose should not change over time. It’s the bedrock upon which your company is built. It’s up to you as a leader to clearly articulate the “why” of your company, to communicate it, to role model it, to ensure your team experiences it when they interact with you, and to ensure they know how their work connects to it. It is your job as a leader to ensure that the people you hire and the clients you engage with are fully aligned with your company’s “why”. Without it, like any house with a weak foundation, your culture will eventually deteriorate and collapse.
Take Action: Thoughts for the Road
What is motivating you as a leader? How connected are you to the company’s purpose, vision, and values? How does your personal “why” align with the company’s? Chew on this for a while and see what insights you get.
Pam is a super cool facilitator and consultant who works with leaders and their teams. At Admin Slayer, we’ve been thrilled to have her facilitate each of our team retreats, and help our team create and engage with our vision, values, and strategy. With Pam’s help, we’ve learned best practices in communications, we’ve connected more deeply with our team, and created a culture that we take pride in.