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What Is Your Values Proposition?
Is Work Making You Seasick?
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Twitter Highlights
I send 15-20 tweets per week with links to useful links and research. Here are a few of my latest, including links:

Cleveland Clinic strategies foretell likely impact of Health-Care Act Via

Do you have triskaidekaphobia? "Unlucky 2013? And the Globalization of Superstition - via

Exceptional article on the value of history for leadership - via

Please read this NY Times expose of Walmart's blatant bribery and acheological rape in Mexico - via

Good overview of Obama's health care reform's impact on medical industry, including opportunities for entrepreneurs via

Lincoln and leadership - Who is better to lead, "filtered" insiders or outsiders like Lincoln? via

Dysfunctional Family Bingo for the Holidays via - With a few alterations, 'would work for dysfunctional meetings

Real supply chain integrity requires more vigilance than Walmart exercised with Bangladesh suppliers - via

Interesting survey results re: links between core values, engagement, recognition and ROI -

'Neat idea for recognizing employees like the WSJ / Dow Jones did Monday -

Helpful hints for handling awkward holiday gathering conversations - via

Workplace distractions via Along those lines - and

These "5 Greatest Leadership Lessons of 2012" make sense; see my comment for a 6th - via

A touching tribute from one motivational legend (Harvey McKay) for another (Zig Ziglar) RIP Zig!

@DennyCoates Reminds me of the famous Japanese strategist Myamoto Musashi's advice: "See distant things up close and near things from afar."

Disturbing truths about unintended consequences of America's safety nets - via

A powerful lesson about authenticity... Before you lose your own "elegant walk," remember the fox. - via

The Power of Negative Thinking - Might prompt reevaluating much of what we've thought is true. - via

The true cost of clothes that you purchase at Walmart - via

Tips for hiring managers on interviewing - useful for interviewee too: via

A sobering look at higher education today: Not What It Used To Be - via

Random statistic: Today 43% of all grades at 4-year universities are As; in 1960 34% were. Are we getting smarter?

"What's the Bright Idea?" - what innovation realy is: via

Stewardship requires more "upstream" consciousness: Tough Questions for WalMart in Bangladesh factory fire - via

It's called compensation integrity - aligning pay with intentions: How To Revive CEO Animal Spirits - via

Why Accountability Is So Muddles And Ho To Un-Muddle It - via

BP and Massey - both examples of profit over principles in today's WSJ - via

fWhat business can learn about innovation from Hollywood and Ratatouille's director - via

If you missed it, below is a copy of my last blog: What Is Your Values Proposition?. Since you may not have seen November's article, Is Work Making You Seasick,? its introduction follows; you can access the entire article by clicking the link at the end.  Be sure to enter the "Who Said This?" contest at the bottom of this newsletter to win an autographed copy of Navigating Integrity - Transforming Business As Usual Into Business At Its Best.
What Is Your Values Proposition?

Yes, I really do mean values proposition, not value proposition. We're accustomed to thinking of an organization's or business value proposition - the degree that it meets the needs, wants and requirements of target markets and customers. We pay less attention to how the values of an organization, its leaders and members add to the bottom line.


Authentic, clearly articulated organizational values can contribute value in multiple ways:

  • As Alexander Hamilton put it: "If we don't know what we stand for, we'll fall for anything." Solid values serve to steer us away from actions that lead to trouble.
  • Clearly articulated values can serve as beacons for employees that we want to attract, and discourage others from applying or staying.
  • Recent studies reveal that understanding an organization's values and recognition that reinforces those values contribute significantly to employee engagement.
  • Values aid decision-making and problem solving; as Roy Disney put it: "It's not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are."
  • Organizational values can serve as meaningful differentiators in crowded markets.  Increasingly, CSR - corporate social responsibility - is playing a significant role in consumers' buying decisions.
  • Foundational values contribute to effective change management; when it seems that everything else is changing, they serve a steadying role.

For reasons like these, the research of Jim Collins and Jerry Porras (Built To Last, 1994) demonstrated how organizations with a strong Values sign core ideology (purpose + values) significantly outperform those without one. A values proposition doesn't just happen when a small subset of an organization - even its executive team - publishes five or six values that they hope will serve as guiding principles. Here is what drives the value of values:


Resonance - Do stated values resonate with customers, potential customers, employees and key stakeholders? I prefer to work in an organization that stands for something and with values like mine, don't you? For most, motivation is higher when working for something that we identify with and believe in. Likewise for customers; increasingly, customers are more likely to factor an organization's or suppliers' values and ethics into buying decisions. Social media have multiplied this dynamic; consumers can hardly ignore news today about overseas garment factory fires and criminally unsafe working conditions, for example.


Authenticity - Employees and customers easily see through lists of values that are just that - lists of politically correct values statements or principles to look good or satisfy compliance requirements. Genuine values statements can come from deeply held founding beliefs or principles reinforced over time; they can also be crafted via an organic process that mines what employees, customers and stakeholders already hold dear. Most important, actual values are those in practice, not just espoused, by an organization and its leaders. Gaps between employees' or customers' actual experiences and organizations' professed values are among the biggest detractors from employee engagement and customer loyalty. Howard Schultz, Starbucks Chairman, captured it perfectly when he said that "winners see challenges as opportunities to reinforce their values; losers see them as reasons to abandon them."


Communication - An interesting study by Burston Marstellar in 2010 demonstrated that effective communication of organizational purpose, including values, positively impacts financial performance by up to 17%. Elements of effective communication strategies include communication by senior leadership, alignment of internal and external messages, integration with existing systems and practices (like performance appraisal, orientation and training,) repetition and redundancy. Values clarity is critical, as is a process for achieving it. The actual labels for values are not as important as what they actually mean operationally; for proof consider the different meanings attached to "pro-family" or "family values."


Again, most important is that actual practices, especially senior leaders' behavior, do not send conflicting messages; in those cases, as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it: "Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you're saying!"


Alignment - inTEgro's Organizational Integrity Survey identifies disconnects between stated values and actual practices. Sometimes disconnects are between espoused values and leadership behaviors; Schultz quotesometimes disconnects are between stated values and systems or processes like compensation, performance evaluation, training or measurement. There could have been no doubt that BP claimed to value safety; safety messages were plastered everywhere. Investigation of their Gulf oil platform explosion, however, revealed that speed, efficiency and cost reduction trumped safety; it was yet another example of "profit over principle," like so many of the contributors to our 2008 financial market meltdown. As Upton Sinclair reminded us: "It's hard to get someone to understand something if their salary depends on them not understanding it."


Perhaps it's time for a values audit in your organization:

  • Does your organization have clearly stated values or principles?
  • Do your stated values resonate with what's important to your employees, customers and key stakeholders?
  • Does everyone know how stated values translate in their roles - what to do and what not to do?
  • Do your senior leaders especially consistently model your organization's espoused values?
  • Are your stated values useful making critical strategic and operational decisions?
  • Do any of your organization's systems, policies and practices - especially compensation, recognition, promotions, performance management and training - reinforce organizational values, or do they send mixed messages?

I hope that these guidelines help you craft your organization's values proposition. Contact me from my home page, and I will be happy to send you a pdf excerpt from my book about how to leverage the value of values.

Havel quote


Is Work Making You Seasick?

Recently a colleague shared her distress with the turmoil, continuous change and what seemed like unrealistic expectations at her workplace. As she described the conditions and her reactions, I couldn't help thinking how similar they were to those of mates I've sailed with who suffered from seasickness. The more I thought about it, not only were the symptoms of what she described like seasickness, but some remedies apply to both as well:


We're better off above than below-deck. I'm not just talking about higher in the hierarchy here; although conditions up the organization chart may be better in some ways than in "steerage," that poses its own set of problems. The worst place to be when sea sick is below-deck. It's close-quarters, the air isn't as fresh, one can get banged around and it's hard to stay balanced. It's amazing what simply "getting above it all" for a period can do to restore spirits and reset our "gyroscope." Every once in a while at work too we need to get above it all to gain some perspective and regain our balance. That might mean taking a break (outdoors preferably,) taking deep breaths and trying to connect with the bigger picture. In his boo k Leadership Without Easy Answers, Ronald Heifitz used a similar analogy about how leaders can gain better perspective by viewing the "dance" from a "balcony" above.


Focus on the horizon. When sailing in rough conditions, focusing on the horizon or distant shore is immensely helpful countering seasickness. The horizon provides a more peaceful looking focal point, distraction from much of the immediate commotion, and a steadier platform for stomachs. It's also much easier steering to a distant point or by a star in rough seas than by any wildly swinging compass.

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Navigating Integriity - Transforming Business As Usual Into Business At Its Best

"In this new book, Al Watts does a masterful job articulating how to live with integrity in our organization, on your team and in your life. A highly practical guide for leveraging the power of integrity."
(Kevin Cashman, Senior Partner Korn Ferrry) 
Contact inTEgro to explore how we can be of service for strategic planning, senior team and board development or facilitating critical meetings. Click "Services" on our home page to learn more, including inTEgro's array of professional organization, team and leader surveys.

All the best,

Al Watts
inTEgro, Inc.
ph: (612) 827-2363

Al Watts
inTEgro, Inc