Do your values affect your behaviour?

This week has seen another example of a culture within a Blue Chip organisation producing behaviour that has shocked the outside world. The actions at Barclays involving manipulation of the Libor rate has resulted in a huge fine for the company and the departure of at least the CEO and COO.

One of the drivers suggested for the behaviour has been the desire of the Day Traders to protect their bonuses with Bob Diamond, the CEO, professing to have no knowledge of what was going on.

Regardless of whether this is true or not, he and his executive team are responsible for the culture that has encouraged the people who took part in misrepresenting interest rate figures to believe this would be acceptable behaviour within the organisation.

One of the major roles for the Leaders of an organisation  is to create the environment that will allow their employees to thrive and achieve the goals of the organisation . They set the standards for others to follow and they define through their actions, behaviours and words what is expected of people and what is acceptable in terms of performance and behaviour. This is frequently set out for all to see in the mission statement and values that the Leaders deem important in helping the company achieve its goals and the environemt they want to operate in. People tend to be drawn to or are committed to organisations where the company values resonate with them. When they can associate themselves with a company’s values they tend to demonstrate enthusiasm, passion and loyalty to the company and the work required of them.

A quick look at the Barclays website shows that the Bank has a number of core values that it lives by; these are keep it simple, own it, work together, think smart, 100% energy and they apparently guide how they do what they do.

The overall vision is to make life easier for their customers, themselves and their communities. Being trusted is an important quality with Barclays expecting the highest ethical standards to be maintained and for all employees to seek compliance with the law and regulations.

Winning Together is also an important goal with staff encouraged to look for opportunities to help others accomplish goals and actively contribute to the firm’s successes. As a result they have a low tolerance for bureaucracy and politics. Perhaps it is this latter value that has contributed to their downfall with winning becoming more important than making life easier for their customers.

As was shown in the phone hacking scandal at News International the original values that had propelled the company to success had been lost in a changing culture where the emphasis had been on getting the story at all costs. This had encouraged “anything goes” behaviour that Leaders either encouraged or turned a blind eye to. It seems to be a similar story at Barclays where maintaining profits/market share/bonuses had become the main driver within the cutlure overseen by Bob Diamond.

These examples of companies falling from grace are a timely reminder for us of the importance of values and the way they can shape the direction and success enjoyed by companies. To fully engage the workforce it is critical to have clearly defined values that people can buy into, identify with and believe in. Research has shown that companies with strong values that are aligned with people’s personal values enjoy greater levels of sustained success than companies where they aren’t clearly defined or of a certain level of morality.

The world of marketing has really grasped the importance of values and how they can be used to reach out to the desired market segment their clients are interested in. VW are currently running an ad for the Polo which is aimed at middle class families with children about to leave the safety and comfort of home and go off to college. The ad is designed to tell a story to draw in the viewer and connect emotionally with the relevant audience. It won’t appeal to everyone watching it, but they don’t expect it to as they are appealing to a section of the market who can identify with the values expressed, the importance of family, safety, trust and so on.

There are similar ads out there, John Lewis had one running in the lead up to Christmas for example, so VW are not unique. Perhaps that is the point though, research shows that these types of ads tend to produce the results the clients are looking for, they allow them to connect with their target market and build customer loyalty as people buy into the values they show in the campaigns.

So what can we learn from the fall of Bob Diamond ?

It is important to think about the culture that we want to create within our organisations – what does it look like?

What are the values that are important to us, our people and our customers?

How can we communicate these effectively?

What are we going to do differently?

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