Recently I have got trough an announcement of a senior leader in the IoT development company. He looked very happy to announce an anniversary at the company. Nothing wrong here you will say, and I also thought the same way. Until I have checked the company on the internet. It came that the anniversary is more than twice longer as a period then the real existence of the company on the market. Unfortunately, it was a very well known brand that values stressed integrity and honesty.
I first tried to contact that person and explain to him how his announcement can impact their employer brand. What amazed me was his answer. This guy told me directly that he is so many years in this profession that people can forgive him for a small mistake and that I’m yelling about something that is insignificant in the light of the wins this company is making these days.
First I was shocked, then angry, then I thought clearly on how this company attracts high potentials and how it sells them the environment. When collected and analyzed the information I saw that most of the statements were formed as examples for honesty, integrity, and care, but many of the perks they offered where just for fun, without adding any strong value to their team. Then I checked again, just to be sure that I am not missing anything, but the result was the same.
After that I have contacted former employees, who worked for the company and asked them why they have left such a great place to work, most of them pointed things connected with the culture. One has gone even further by admitting that “Young people believe in miracles and superficial words. Then when they meet the reality most what it offers is a crappy workplace with the same old perks, some free food and nothing else “. Another person described the workplace as a “Shiny balloon, created to protect senior leaders in the company from the outside world”.
Then I contacted the senior leader admitting to having worked for a non-existing company and asked why he distributed such a lie in the public space. The answer was simple but meaningful for me. It looked like that: “Everyone is lying these days. Telling a lie is something normal. People don’t get much attention to that. They forget quicker than the chores they have planned to do.”
Although this seemed like an honest answer, it was a terrible one, because of the one, who had to an example for behavior and has spread company values all over the employees and talked so many times in public about them, didn’t actually believed in them.
Maybe this story has come across you with similar characters, or you have lived in such an environment. I personally left a promising company disappointed that the values are used only to judge people in a lower hierarchy, but are not seen as value and standard from the senior leaders.
If you are fighting against such behavior, like the one I described above, you will need to make some sacrifices. Building and sustaining corporate identity and build on that identify your brand as an n employer of choice is a crucial step, every leader should make. Here are some tips to help you think on how your behavior can affect in a positive or negative way the brand you are trying to build and sustain among the potential talents you need to grow the business of your company:
Read the values until you understand them
You have to be honest with yourself. Some of the things are not in our heads every day. It is the same with values. For everyone in the company, and especially for the leadership team it is important to ensure that all people have the same understanding of values and culture. There are many individual interpretations of what the values mean in every company, but if there are doubts in the leadership team, then you have already lost the fight against misconception. For you, to be sure, that as a leader you understand the values, read them until you can connect them with real things from your day to day activities.
Ask the champions
In any company, there are people (senior or not) who represent the specific positive thinking that the company has admitted to the public. Find those people and ask them about how they have turned into examples for these core company values and what makes them work in line with them every day. You will be surprised that some of your understandings are far away from what these values and culture champions really do. Don’t get upset or defensive about that, use it as a development opportunity.
Build your “honesty assessment” checklist.
One thing many leaders don’t do is check how their behavior and actions affect others. According to an American Psychology association survey, conducted back in 2018, 59% of all senior leaders never understand some of their blind sports. What a leader must always remember and tell to him/herself is that honesty is not a necessity, but an obligation. “The honesty checklist” every leader must have has to have questions in different areas of life but stressing on behavior, example and concepts at work. As honestly, the leader fills this self-assessment after collecting feedback, the better ground he or she will have to start changing in a positive way.
Admit it to build on it
Many leaders are afraid that if they admit that they are not perfect that can ruin the image they have built. Well, guess what – if you are a leader and you have done some things that look like not acceptable according to admitted and communicated culture model of the company, you have already done the damage by yourself. The best way to change what really happened is to admit that you know it and how you plan or what you do to change the situation. This is what coaches and psychologists call emotional intelligence.
React as fast as you can
Most people often think in the way “time heals and helps to forget”. This is particularly true for some situations, but when the leadership of a company or your company brand and name is on stake there is no time to waist. That is why today most politicians admit mistakes publicly and explain how they are going to act in the future. The fat as you react, the better and more impactful positive result you will create.
No one is ensured from making mistakes. What makes the difference between people who are positively accepted and those who are negatively accused are the honesty and the level of readiness to act toward the mistake. As higher in a hierarchy, a leader stands the more it’s actions and flexibility for change affect the company. If you want to help your company from your leadership role than be ready to show vulnerability and imperfection and readiness to change without fear.