Every company’s behaviour towards its customers, partners and stakeholders is rooted in a set of principles that define its identity and beliefs which are normally known as Values.
Let’s use a capital ‘V’ because this is a crucial element of all companies in most parts of the world.
These Values are the DNA make-up of the company. No wonder some people insist on prominently displaying them on office walls for everyone to see and never forget.
Values preserve talent, earn the company its employees’ respect and loyalty and enhance embedded traits which can be either good or bad.
Over the years, I have seen the team at WMC Africa where talent has been nurtured and preserved because of a working environment that has adopted enabling Values.
One of them is TRUST; a situation where each team member is trusted and given an opportunity to perform to their best without being micro-managed. Admittedly, there have been cases where some people new to the team cannot perform on their own initiative and eventually leave. Nonetheless, WMC Africa has crafted a working culture that continues to attract and retain the talent it needs to achieve its vision.
Values also earn the company respect and loyalty of its employees.
A few months ago, I attended a leaders forum where a lady friend related about one of the leading poultry breeding farms in Uganda that found itself in serious financial constraints. A number of senior managers stayed on the job despite being told they wouldn’t be paid for some time. On the other hand, her description of the Managing Director perhaps best explains why this deep commitment from the managers. “Whenever anyone of us lost a core family member he ensured there was a financial contribution and he attended the burial too,” she said.
As already mentioned, Values enhance both great and poor traits. An interesting real life example of a company whose leaders’ embedded traits were magnified is Uber.
It had a list of 14 Company Values which it also displayed on conference room screens around its modern San Francisco headquarters, some of these were mind boggling such as ‘toe-stepping’; ‘principled confrontation’ and ‘always be hustling’.
One may think that the genesis of these Values was to operate at maximum effectiveness and energy since the founder was a dynamic entrepreneur, but they also had a negative connotation which was soon to manifest in harassment, sexual scandals, and breach of data scandal that affected over 50million users.
Before long, CEO Travis Kalanick’s name hit the media about his dysfunctional character reflected in the company’s operations. All this led to his resignation. When the new CEO Dara Khosrwoshahi was brought in, he is quoted to have stated “Our values define who we are and how we work, but I had heard from many employees that some of them simply didn’t represent the kind of company we want to be.”
Uber took on a new public face, focusing on growing responsibly other than growing at all costs. The good news was no one on the team needed to be convinced that a massive course correction was needed. Khosrwoshahi went ahead together with the Uber team of over 1,200, to develop new values: ‘We build globally, We live locally’; ‘We are customer obsessed’; ‘We celebrate differences’; ‘We do the right thing’; ‘We act like owners’; ‘We persevere’; ‘We value ideas over hierarchy’; and ‘We make big bold bets’.
After successfully crafting these eight Values to replace the previous 14, Khosrwoshahi said “These norms will take us forward and will hold each of us accountable as we continue to change Uber for the better.”
Yes, indeed, Values do Matter because Uber is no longer making news headlines for the wrong reasons.