3 Common Culture Myths Related to Values

Picture of a bible and a statement about Corporate Culture Myths

Culture Myths About Values Can Hinder Growth
Corporate culture myths related to values are not hard to find.  Organizational culture may be closely related (or should be) to corporate values, but there is a lot of misunderstanding out there about how culture and values work together.

The Definition of Corporate Values
Corporate values are the compass that guides decisions and the sense of what is right and wrong at your company.   Values are your company’s fundamental beliefs and are often written in manuals for new employees to read when they first come aboard.  Corporate values form the foundation of a health culture.

The Definition of Corporate Culture
Culture, on the other hand, is how things truly get done in an organization. Workplace culture is an intangible that can only be measured by understanding the way people think, behave and work.

Three Common Culture Myths Related to Values
Here are three corporate culture myths about the relationship between culture and values:

1.  Corporate Values Drive Behavior
Employees do not necessarily look to a code of behavior when they act; instead they are more likely to look at others around them. How their co-workers and leaders are behaving is the way they are most apt to act. When sound values are the foundation for an ethical culture, all works well; other times it does not.

Consider the situation at Enron. The company had a very clear, but lengthy, statement of corporate values that was all about acting with integrity, respect and excellence. But, instead, the Enron organizational culture valued and promoted greed. So when decisions were made, it was more often the profit-motive that drove actions rather than the more high-minded values.

2.  Corporate Values Always Come First
Values often become the bedrock of an organization and then culture is the overlay. But it is not always the case.

  • Zappos, for example, did it “backwards.”
  • Tony Hsieh as CEO established the culture that mattered most to him–a culture where the happiness of the customers and employees was of primary importance.
  • He was so committed to creating this environment of customer and employee satisfaction that he offered $2,000 to any new employee who wanted to leave after a trial period if they did not subscribe to the Zappos culture.
  • Only after the culture was well established did he, at the request of his employees, look toward defining corporate values.
  • And who did he go to for the values? His employees created them.

3.  Organizational Culture Must Never Change
As business strategies evolve, it is often necessary for the corporate culture to change along with the needs of the organization.  Here are a few examples:

  • Decision Making Information: As you grow, it may not make sense for you to make all your decisions in the open. You may still want transparency as a value but you may not need to include all your employees in the details of every move you make.
  • Decision Making Location: When companies are small, most decision making is rightfully made by either one individual or a small group of centralized leaders.  As companies grow, front line individuals often must become empowered to make decisions quickly an don their own.

The Bottom Line
Culture accounts for 40% of the difference between high and low growth companies.  Smart leaders do not let culture myths about values hinder their ability to align their culture with their business and people strategies.

To learn more about how to get the most out of your culture, download The 3 Levels of Culture Required to Create High Performance

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