Setting a Vision: A Values-driven Culture

Last week, I wrote about the first step in shifting and improving culture—to identify and acknowledge the prevailing culture by listening, by asking, and by creating the trust required to elicit honest feedback—even when it is hard to hear.

Assessing the current culture creates a starting place from which to make shifts or improvements as identified through perceived gaps. Once that assessment is clear, the next step is to be intentional about the values that will drive our culture and we must define the behaviors that reflect those values.

Culture will either be a company’s greatest asset or largest liability. While culture has many aspects and manifestations, its core should include a clear sense of purpose and shared values that guide decision making across the company.

For The Fedcap Group we value the following:

    • Solving, not just serving problems.
    • Authentic collaboration and partnerships that result in fully integrated
      (not stove pipe) solutions for people with barriers to economic and social well-being.
    • Sustainability and Corporate Health
    • Thinking about What’s Next—being prepared for the changing market place
    • The Power of Possible
    • Transparency in our financial and programmatic results to all stakeholders

Because this is what we value, this is what we talk about. These are the topics on which we spend our time and our resources.

Translating those values into behaviors is the secret sauce. Because company culture is a concept that is easier to experience than to describe, we spend a good amount of time talking about what we want people to do, what a value driven set of behaviors looks like. For example, we place a high value on people collaborating with one another. In fact, we believe that we will only accomplish our organizational goals if we are highly effective team players. So, we are focused on how people behave around others—in meetings or in formal settings—and how they behave when they are alone or in informal conversation with their colleagues. Do they respond to e-mails and phone calls? Do they value one another’s worth? Their time? Do they carve out time to brainstorm precise interventions that, when accurately sequenced could create profound impact?

We also value innovation and creating real solutions to pressing societal issues. As such it is imperative that we bring talent to the work. Talent tends to multiply. The more energy and attention you invest in it, the greater the yield. So how do we find talent? Are we creative? Are we known as a premier employer? Do our job descriptions reflect our values? Do our interviews? Once we find talent, how do we onboard? How do we lay out expectations? Are our policies clear? How do we support talented individuals in their efforts to develop solutions?

We value sustainability–financially, reputationally, programmatically. As such we spend a lot of time talking about risk and risk management. We expect every individual in the company to be aware of their role in ensuring that our reputation remains intact. We stress that risk management is everyone’s job. So, when I talk to staff informally, I ask them, how are you managing risk in your role? What are you doing to ensure that your program is financially solvent? We have embedded Risk Management discussions into our Brown Bag Lunches and our Leadership Academy. It will be a major component of our soon-to-be-launched Executive Institute. Also, data is imperative to a sustainable organization. So we have invested in technology and we expect that leaders understand their data—and act on it. And to all of this and more, we stress, if you see something that could impact the health and future of the organization…say something.

Building a culture where people’s behaviors are a direct reflection of our values is the job of any leader. While it is not easy, corporate culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that is completely within our control.