Tough times bring our values to the fore, like a magnifying glass analysing the degree of alignment between what we say we value and our day-to-day behaviours.
It’s a magnifying glass that all employees will be acutely aware of, so as leaders, we need to be extremely mindful of this, sticking strongly to what we believe in. Sadly, as organisations now strive to restart work, there are all too many examples of cracks showing between espoused values and realtime behaviours.
One client has had to continue working remotely throughout lockdown, which after initial challenges, ended up worked well. They’ve now been told of the rules about social distancing in the workplace to keep employees and customers safe, and that they have to apply these and restart working in situ.
The trouble is, restarting work in situ and maintaining the rules seems impossible. They’ve looked at it from as many creative angles as they can, and they just can’t come up with a solution that keeps within the rules if they have to be doing what they do from the workplace. So they called a meeting with the local leadership.
This organisation has Integrity, in the pursuit, creation, application and dissemination of knowledge, and Responsibility, for individual actions and service to society at its core. So you’d be forgiven in thinking that they’d decide to prolong remote working until it was truly safe to come back to the workplace. Certainly that's what their employees thought. But no. No, the financial implications of not restarting now are too high. So the leadership team’s response has been, "You have to make it work, and if that means fudging some things, you’ll have to fudge them." Not in writing of course, just verbally. And persuasively.
This leadership team has just lost all credibility they had with their employees. In one small meeting, it’s all gone.
Contrast that with organisations that have truly stood by what they say they stand for. One example comes from Gravity Payments, whose mission is to change the way business is done by putting purpose and people above profits. Their values are:
When Dan Price, the CEO, realised they’d lost half of their monthly revenue as a result of COIVD-19, and had 4-6 months before bankruptcy, he went to his employees and asked them what they could potentially do to help stabilise the situation. They worked out how to take voluntary pay cuts that would stop the need for layoffs for the next 12 months or so.
While this isn't necessarily the right choice for all companies, notice that in the spirit of responsibility, Price was transparent with his employees, and thoughtful about keeping them involved in the decision making.
(As an aside, Dan Price has an interesting history when it comes to employees and salaries. This article from @paulkeegan at Inc is well worth a read: https://bit.ly/2Vn9B7F )
So how are you and your leadership team faring? If you haven’t already, now is a great time to explore your answers to these questions:
Your answers act as an important filter for your decision making as you make your way into the new normal.
By the way, this is an area where excellent facilitation can mean the difference between a valuable learning experience resulting in aligned commitment and focussed action, and a nice to have conversation that results in differences in opinion and not much change in action. To find out more on how we help organisations survive and thrive in these challenging times, do get in touch.