We think of BIG things: big ideas, big initiatives, big personalities. It makes sense because this is the image that we're usually given. However, a new way of understanding organizational success is emerging. That being all the little ways organizations live their core values every day.
Progressive organizations today are changing the game by continuously showing how living values through little daily actions have a compounding effect that leads to big impacts. Their success can be instructive for leaders at all organizations from small startups to the biggest Fortune 500 companies.
Unfortunately, the research examining the values of Fortune 500 companies has been slim. So how can we learn to live our values if we don't know what they are?
The top values at Fortune 500 companies
This question inspired Adam Fridman, founder of ProHabits, to dig deeper and uncover the link between lived values and organizational success. In their original research to discover core values, his team evaluated 2,057 values gathered from a total of 397 organizations (include the likes of Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft) and found five top values seen across Fortune 500 companies:
- Customer Service
While these values are found almost everywhere it's certainly not the case that they're successfully lived out.
Take integrity for instance. Fifty-five percent of Fortune 100 organizations have integrity as one of their listed core values -- and the trend seems to trickle down to organizations of all sizes.
But many of these same companies take actions that run counter to integrity. One of the most infamous examples of this was Enron -- yes, Enron listed integrity as a core value, and we know how that story ended.
Truth is when companies don't live their values they take a series of hits to their potential success.
When businesses do live their values successfully, however, the results can be astounding. Take Zappos for instance, a company widely lauded for its commitment to culture and values. Led by the culture vision of Tony Hsieh, Zappos has grown from a start-up to a globally recognized billion-dollar brand.
Zappos takes their culture seriously and puts in the effort to make it a part of every aspect of their operations. In fact, they take their value of customer service so seriously that Tony Hsieh once said, "Zappos is a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes." With this culture, they've made Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For list seven times.
So we can clearly see the potential that living values can have, but how do leaders go about creating a culture of lived values?
It starts with making the little things habitual
Self-aware leaders understand that it begins with them. They lead with little everyday actions -- or 'MicroActions,' as they've come to be called. These little actions become habits that help weave values into the day seamlessly.
There isn't a set limit to the little things that can make a difference in leadership, but certain core behaviors tend to pop out when taking a close look at the MicroActions of successful leaders. Engaging your brain in these behaviors is the first step towards leading with the little things and setting off a domino effect throughout the organization.
Here are a few MicroActions to give you an idea:
If you don't believe what you're saying people notice -- and when they notice they get cynical. This is probably one of the easiest things for leaders to do -- simply don't say the things that you don't believe. That takes integrity.
Doing what you expect of others can be as simple as showing up for a meeting on time. Too often leaders get ahead of themselves and believe they are above the rules they set for others. But if you don't respect your own expectations no one else will either.
It's easy to let the little every day wins slip by unrecognized. But tapping into your teams well of motivation may be just a matter of recognizing success at the right time. This is especially true for people whose work may not be as visible and who aren't recognized as often. It only takes a couple of well-timed minutes and can help create a closer and more cohesive team.
Breaking free of routine can't be done all at once, but should be taken in chunks. This is achieved through daily commitments to accomplish a routine process in a different way. Whether it's doing something by hand that's normally on a computer or running something by a different member of your team, there are many ways to make small steps towards a more innovative approach.
Relationships are best built gradually over long periods of time. Building the relationships with customers that define a company's customer service can be attained by calling up a different customer or client for a few minutes once a day just to chat and see if there's anything that they need.