• Aligning Personal Values and Corporate Culture

    By Hayley Studer

    Haley Studer

    As part of a leadership development series I participated in several years ago, we were asked to list our top three personal core values. As the facilitator reminded us that these were our fundamental beliefs, I questioned the point of this exercise. I was pretty sure I already knew what was important to me and didn’t see the relevance as part of this leadership course. Looking back, I now laugh at that misconception.

    After being forced to really think about the things I value the most, my boss at the time asked our team to make a list of our individual leadership expectations. As I spent time developing a list of expectations for my team and myself, I started to see the connection between the things I had listed as my core values and how they translated into day-to-day behavioral requirements. Previously, evaluating someone’s management/leadership skills seemed subjective, but now I had concrete criteria to use as a guide. It also became clear if someone on my team wasn’t aligned with my core values. I began using these expectations as discussion points when interviewing new prospective management team members, and my focus began to shift from more of a skills-based interview to interviewing for cultural fit. My team knew my expectations, and it became much easier to coach them if their behavior was contrary to the guidelines we had previously discussed.

    Team Building

    During those couple of years, I spent a lot of time focusing on my values and building a team that was well-aligned with them, but I hadn’t given much thought to the bigger picture. When I decided to make a career change last year, I started looking at values in a different light. One of the things that became important when evaluating a new career opportunity was to look at the prospective company’s corporate values to see how they aligned with my own.

    Like personal values, corporate values should drive a company’s mission and business decisions. When faced with competing priorities and challenges, these values should be the filter that's used to determine which direction to head. They help keep the business focused and on track. In my new role, being responsible for the mission of our company not only refers to what we do externally in the community, but also how that mission is lived out internally through the company's culture. As my position has evolved during the past year, I began to focus more on corporate culture and the importance of the alignment of employees' personal values with corporate values.

    It became apparent that not only was the management team important, but interviewing for corporate culture and alignment with company values in all employee positions was a necessity. The company values dictate how we treat each other, our customers, and our clients. When an employee’s personal values conflict with the corporate values, we see a disconnect in how our company mission is fulfilled. We can generally teach an employee the mechanics and hard skills for the job, but it is much more difficult to get someone on board when their personal values are not in line with the corporation’s.

    The Measuring Stick

    In addition to driving the normal business processes for a company, corporate values should be the measuring stick when difficult times arise. Roy Disney, brother of Walt Disney and cofounder of what is now The Walt Disney Company, said, “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” When financial projections aren’t met, what things are eliminated? What takes precedence when two departments have competing objectives? These decisions become much easier when they're filtered through the lens of the company’s values. The true test comes during those challenging periods. If the management team and employees are truly aligned with corporate values, the solutions should be easier to determine and agree upon. Comedian Jon Stewart said, “If you don't stick to your values when they're being tested, they're not values: they're hobbies.”

    As we close out 2017 and quickly begin a new year, it’s a good opportunity to reassess priorities and direction. Understanding and defining your personal values is a great first step in the process. Determining your alignment and that of your employees with your corporate values and mission is key. Having employees whose values are misaligned with the company’s adds unnecessary stress to the day and hinders progress. Host of The Travel Channel and author John Ratzenberger, states, “Find people who share your values, and you'll conquer the world together.” The possibilities are endless when a group of employees is aligned behind a corporate mission. Anything becomes possible! 

    Hayley Studer, CPA, FHFMA, is vice president, community partnerships for Credit Adjustments Inc. and is responsible for overseeing the company’s charitable division.

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