Aspiration or Inspiration

Guest Blogger: Ken Byler, Owner, Higher Ground Consulting Group, LLC

Most companies have a mission statement that espouses a list of values they are committed to – excellent customer service, being a fun place to work, the importance of teamwork, honesty and integrity. These standards are intended to encourage employees to do their best and ultimately make the business successful.

There’s only one big problem with the majority of these vision statements; they are mostly about our aspirations.

A value by definition is something that we believe and “live.” It defines our actions not just our ideals. So, a list of compelling values, matted and framed on an office wall, does little to change behavior unless those values are actually enforced by the company’s leaders.

In fact, many organizations have a culture that is a shadow of the values or mission statement; guided by implication and fueled by what actually happens on a daily basis throughout the company.

What you enforce as a leader, the nonnegotiable standards that carry consequences for being noncompliant, are the “real values” that guide your operations. How many times do you allow a family member, senior manager or another owner in the business to deviate from the company’s stated operational standards without any punishment or repercussions? Do you tolerate bad behavior from a super salesman because his or her revenue drives your company’s bottom line? Are poor managers allowed to flourish because they have tenure or share the owner’s last name?

Customer service is also frequently characterized by less than stellar performance. If the customer satisfaction survey boasts acceptable to okay responses, many companies are content to rest on their laurels instead of challenging themselves to strive for excellence. When leadership and management proclaims that we are “committed to excellence” but continues to tolerate anything less than the best in customer service, then the unspoken standard becomes “good is good enough around here.”

The funny thing about inspiration is how it actually changes behavior!

When leaders treat employees and customers with respect, and enforce stated operational and service guidelines, an amazing transformation occurs. The values that once seemed only an ideal, “come to life” throughout the organization. Managers spend less time sustaining values that are broadly and deeply held and enforced throughout the workplace.

When standards are set high, when cruisers are routinely confronted about their behavior, when anything but excellent is challenged and questioned, only then will aspirations become inspiration.

A company values system that inspires requires frequent and honest feedback, both positive and negative. You might begin by asking your employees to rate the company (on a scale of 1-to-10) at how well you are living the values included in the organization’s current mission statement.

Don’t be shocked if the results are less than inspiring.

Filed in: Client News