A Culture of Believed Values

By Louis and Adriaan Groenewald

It is humanly impossible to perform above those standards that we truly believe and value most. This is not simply an ethics statement, but a universal law that governs the performance of every human being.

It is not possible to perform above our believed (real) standards in life, in other words that which one truly believes in one’s heart and mind, which is not necessarily what one expresses verbally. It is human to perform below our believed standards at times, but it is impossible to perform above them.

Standards in this context include all those desires, expectations, principles, objectives and goals we sincerely believe, and so value most. This may or may not have anything to do with the values that are posted on the wall. In other words, we as human beings perform according to our imposed and ultimately, self-imposed, limitations and standards. The issue is not whether or not there are values placed on the walls inside one’s organisation. The issue is whether or not leaders and staff truly believe, and then value the standards that are displayed on the walls. Values are supposed to be accepted standards of behaviour.

There exists a flawed belief that organisational values can or should be separated from the real output objectives of the organisation. In other words, organisations tend to publish a set of values that are separate from achievement objectives such as bottom-line profits and competitive superiority. This approach can be a serious mistake. If we want our staff to believe they can and will achieve both the declared values as well as achievement objectives such as bottom-line profits, they must somehow be integrated.

To develop a strong valued culture is not just a moral issue – it has to do with the universal dynamics of human performance

As leadership coaches we on occasion come across the feeling of staff members that the company puts business interests above its declared values. This perception creates negativity and suspicion in the organisation. It also invariably causes a lack of performance.

It is humanly impossible to perform above those standards that we truly believe and value most

Practices on values

Most professional organisations try to adopt specific values or standards of behaviour in their organisation – integrity, honesty, professionalism, and so on. They try to ensure that such standards are believable and consistently applied top-down.

In many cases values are being formulated as part of extensive strategy building exercises, at great cost to the organisation. Often the values are in fact displayed everywhere in the organisation as part of their mission, vision and strategy statements.

We rarely find that the stated values are believed by most staff members, or that most staff members value them, or believe that they should value them, as they do other objectives and goals. What is missing is that the values are not integrated into the normal leadership language of the organisation. In many instances the leadership and staff as a whole are unaware of the cost of non-compliance of truly valuing the set standards.

In our country we have to learn to marry our human rights culture with universal standards that we value! We can only do this by building a leadership culture in the organisation – the kind of culture that empowers the application of processes that enable staff to integrate the standard of objectives, desires, goals and our human rights culture.

The above-mentioned statement bears repeating: It is humanly impossible to perform above the standards that we truly value most in life. 

Cost of non-compliance with valued standards

The cost of not complying with valued standards in an organisation has many negative spin-offs that are often not recognised as such. When a valued standard is not commonly adhered to, the following negative results will occur:

  • A climate of suspicion. Such suspicion is often aimed at the leadership of the organisation, sometimes unjustified. But, the suspicion is a perceived reality that generates a chain reaction of negative results amongst staff.
  • A lack of ownership.
  • A lack of motivation and innovation.
  • A lack of frugality (‘It is the organisation’s money, not ours.’).
  • A lack of work enjoyment.

Valued standards and performance relationship

The following statements emphasise the close relationship between valued standards and performance. Bear in mind that the concept valued standards in this context also applies to believable objectives, goals and processes to solve problems and challenges.

  • It is humanly impossible to perform above our believed and valued standards, or self-imposed limitations.
  • A lack of processes (models) to cultivate believable valued standards will result in low performance.
  • A believable culture of valued standards will result in higher performance.

A leader’s perspective of values (valued standards)

The concept that it is humanly impossible to perform above our valued standards in life has immense leadership significance. We have discussed the principle that values in this context include all believable standards of desires, objectives, behaviours and expectations.

Everything the leader says or infers impacts on the perception of staff about standards of behaviour and performance. It impacts on the level of believability of that which the leader expects from the staff member(s). So, leaders need to think before they speak and act!

When the boss is perceived to level criticism out of context with a companies drive towards a positive environment, the employee may tend to believe that the boss is in fact telling him or her what level of performance he or she is rated or expected to perform at.  What is important, or what matters is not what the boss intends to communicate, but what communication the staff member receives. In other words, the actions of the boss, intended or not, often in reality communicates, or even superimposes believability standards on the staff member.

Fortunately the converse is also true. When a leader communicates passionately his or her belief in the staff member, or in what the staff member is doing, that person tends to raise his or her believable standards and perform accordingly.

LP Leadership Platform – Multiplying Leaders. Moving Society.

Do you recognise some areas in yourself as a leader or areas in your team that need improvement?

Contact Adriaan Groenewald for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside you as a leader and your organisation.

Adriaan Groenewald is an Authentic Leadership Activist


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