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Leading Through Vision and Values: Communicates the importance of the vision and values

Posted by 104Inc.com on October 17, 2008

An organization’s vision and values are meaningless if people don’t understand and accept them. Before committing to new behaviors, associates must accept the importance of the values to the organization’s and their personal success. To promote this level of understanding and commitment, leaders must be able to communicate the vision and values powerfully and passionately.

1. Show why the values are important.
Associates who understand how their organization’s values contribute to their and the organization’s success are more likely to be motivated by the values. For example, associates are more likely to commit to the value of developing organizational talent if they realize that keeping people’s skills up to date will benefit their own careers and give the organization a significant advantage over competitors.

a) Link the values to strategic objectives.
Explain the significance of the values by linking them to your organization’s strategic objectives. These objectives should include the vision and critical success factors-issues that affect an organization’s ability to compete in the marketplace. Whereas the vision gives a broad-brush view of the desired future, critical success factors focus on a few key areas that are important to achieving the vision and giving the organization a competitive advantage.

Like measures of physical health (blood pressure, cholesterol level, and percentage of body fat) that indicate how your body is functioning, critical success factors reveal how your organization is performing. Examples of critical success factors are customer retention, cycle time reduction, market expansion, and employee retention.
Give associates a powerful rationale for living the organization’s values by explaining how the values contribute to the critical success factors. The following table shows this link.
Value Critical Success Factor
Customer Service Increase the customer retention rate
Quality of Work Life Attract and retain high-caliber associates
Continuous Improvement Increase speed to market of products and services

b) Link the values to individual aspirations.
Not only do organizations have goals and objectives, but each associate has unique aspirations and interests. For associates to commit to the organization’s values and principles, they need to see how the vision and values will help support their beliefs and realize their personal aspirations. For example, if associates value honesty in their own actions, they will find it easy to commit to the value of integrity and will be honest with customers and coworkers. Also, associates who value self-improvement will easily commit to the value of continuous learning and welcome training opportunities.

Associates must feel that the organization’s vision and values resonate “with their own deepest feelings about what is right and worth doing” (Nanus, 1992). To gain this level of commitment, encourage associates to make their personal aspirations and beliefs specific. Then show the link to the organization’s vision and values.

2. Communicate powerfully.
What would have been Abraham Lincoln’s legacy without the Gettysburg Address? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s without his “I Have a Dream” speech? What made these talks memorable? The power of their communication.

Powerful communication enhances associates’ appreciation of and commitment to the vision and values of their organization. Your words and communication style should help associates understand the meaning and importance of the vision and values. Use the following guidelines to boost the power and impact of your written and oral communications.

a) Speak in a language associates understand.
When talking about the vision and values, use simple language and terminology that you can tailor to associates’ experiences. For example, if you’re explaining the importance of customer service to the information systems department, use a phrase like “customer interface.” However, “quality delivery” might ring truer with the shipping department. In addition, vary your descriptions of the vision and values to suit certain educational levels or geographic locations

b) Say it and say it again.
Communicating the vision and values is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Discussing the vision and values frequently with associates helps guide their daily actions and decisions. It also sends a consistent message: The vision and values are a way of work life, not just fads or clich├ęs.

c) Use a variety of communications media.
There are many ways to communicate and explain the vision and values. Examples include:

Formal speeches.
Kickoff events and celebrations.
Informal conversations (one-on-one, with a group over lunch, etc.).
Posters and plaques.
Job aids (laminated cards).
Internal newsletters.
Marketing materials (brochures, advertisements, business cards, annual reports).
Bulletin boards (hanging or electronic).
Memoranda (paper or e-mail).
You can use a combination of these communication vehicles, depending on which ones are the most accessible and have the greatest impact.

d) Provide examples of living the values.
Slogans and symbols can be extremely effective ways of enhancing employees’ understanding of the vision and values. A major auto manufacturer’s popular slogan became a powerful rallying cry that focused on the commitment and efforts of its employees. Since the slogan’s debut, several of the manufacturer’s cars have been the best-selling cars in their class.
But by themselves, slogans and symbols can become empty promises that leave employees skeptical. Leaders must back up slogans and symbols with actions. One way is to recognize how the values are coming alive in the organization.

Instead of long essays in newsletters or posters praising the virtues of teamwork, publish stories and pictures showcasing teams’ successes. Show how living the values improved their bottom-line results.
Instead of giving everyone in the organization mugs and pins advertising the vision and values, make these items available to people who want to recognize a coworker’s efforts. The message thus changes from a gimmicky new program to an ongoing process that rewards living the values.
Instead of developing communications with a group of media experts, involve employees. For example, an employee group could write and produce your company’s newsletter.
Instead of filing customer compliments, publicize them. Help associates see how acting consistently with the values can enhance customer satisfaction.
Instead of recognizing associates with the usual “Employee of the Month” awards, name awards after the values and present them to people who exemplified them.

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