Many companies establish ethics-based values in hopes of building a culture that commands respect in the workplace and industry. But often employees put aside these values to get to the top faster, brushing aside ethics, and bending the rules as often as possible. They are looking for the easiest shortcut to profits and market share.

Dina Dwyer-Owens strongly believes in the notion that values (ethics) actually drive value (profits). The success of the Dwyer Group, a collection of 2,700 franchise owners spanning 14 service brands and 11 countries, is a perfect example. The company she co-chairs has surpassed $1.4 billion in annual system-wide sales--an achievement that didn't happen by accident, chance, manipulation, or a forced hand. It happened by leading with values.

Dwyer-Owens, the author of Values, Inc., says there's a specific process to making values-based behavior prominent in the culture. In a recent conversation, she shared the six steps with me.

1. Clarify Your Values

Dwyer-Owens defines values as, "Those near and dear statements meant to lift up an entire organization." To serve their purpose, she argues that the statements must make sense to everyone. When founder Don Dwyer Sr., unexpectedly passed away, his highly personal values had to be clarified for new management. "We created an operationalized Code of Values that were elementary and needed no additional explanation," she recalls. Some 20 years later, those values have stood the test of time as accountability statements that everyone can support.

2. Create Your "Mantra"

Apple wants its fans and employees to "Think Different." Nike invites people to "Just Do It." Tesla imagines a world to "Be Free. Go Far." Dwyer-Owens points out that "Everyone needs a mantra that supports the brand, props up a culture and gives people something to cheer about."

The Dwyer Group's mantra is to "Live R.I.C.H.", reminding employees that their core values are: Respect, Integrity, Customer focus and Having fun in the process.

"It's easy to remember, it supports a positive culture, and it reinforces the themes in our Code of Values," she explains.

3. Test Your Values by Example

"The best leaders walk the walk and talk the talk," Dwyer-Owens says, "The quickest way to lose a team's trust is to 'Do as I say, not as I do.' "

When Dwyer Group introduced the Code of Values to all of its associates, the leadership team challenged the entire organization to play what they call the "beep" game. Any time a senior executive was observed not living up to the values, the employees could say "beep." The result? The leaders led by example while the entire company started learning the values through playing the game.

4. Systemize & Internalize

"Some 95% of leaders spend valuable time, money and effort to define their company's values only to hang them on a wall and walk away," warns Dwyer-Owens.

Great leaders springboard values from ideation to implementation. That's how good intentions graduate into great results and an entire organization learns to live its values. Franchise organizations create systems for success. Dwyer Group introduced a system in which any meeting of 3 or more team members would begin by reciting the Code of Values. Amazingly, employees quickly memorized the code, could say it by heart with heart, and actively looked to for answers in conducting the day-to-day of business. Dwyer-Owens concludes, "There's no point in idyllic statements hung on the wall. You want living and breathing statements with real, daily meaning."

5. Measure Leadership as Well as the Line

Companies routinely have performance reviews to determine compensation, career advancement, and much more. But great leaders turn the tables, too. "Dwyer Group regularly polls the organization to determine if values are being honored in the workplace," she explains. "And there's nothing wrong or scary about making missteps when trying to lead with integrity. At Dwyer Group, we don't claim to be perfect. We just work hard at living and leading with values every day." Identifying the areas where values have not risen to the top creates an opportunity for consistent improvement.

6. Cultivate a Living Culture

Dwyer-Owens believes that great leaders embrace the job of keeping the culture and those values alive. Constant communication builds on a strong foundation. She explains: "Great leaders don't use rules as a means to keep people down. Instead, they look at values as principles that are meant to lift people up." When they build culture around that principle, their companies are great, too. They attract similar-minded people to their growing teams. They deliver always-improving great results. They cultivate a positive and inviting place where work is sometimes not work at all, but a calling that people must answer.

For more specific guidance, you can find Dwyer-Owens's "Create your Culture Workbook" here. I found it very insightful.

Published on: Jan 10, 2017
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