Thoughts on the art of implementing values, visions and the corresponding mindset in everyday leadership!
The major challenge in every realization, every resolution for change, and yes, every change as a whole, is their execution- we know this from our New Year’s Resolutions… Deciding on a change is often an intellectual choice, but implementing it takes a lot more. We know that we have successfully put it into practice when we no longer think about it, when we have internalized it.
In order to bring about change, it is necessary to be sure about two things: the starting point and the desired outcome. The second part, defining the overall goal, is not only easier, it’s even fun! We would all love to live in an ideal world – Hollywood thrives off of this… ;-)!
It is only human and reasonable to begin with the easier step when one wants to tackle a particular challenge. It is for this reason that there are numerous specialists who are skilled and well-versed in formulating corporate goals, values, and visions to paint a compelling picture of the ideal corporate world. It is indeed an important and necessary motivation for everyone, most importantly for the management!
The next step in clarifying is defining the state of the situation. This is already slightly more complex and challenging to do. It requires the cooperation of all parties of the company, from top to the bottom, even including external stakeholders… and naturally here lies the difficulty! There are numerous specialists and companies available for identifying the existing situation who do not shy away from this huge undertaking. Once there is a general feel for the state of things, the definition seems no longer important – but maybe it should.
The big challenge here, especially for the majority of employees who do not usually concern themselves with vision, goals, and strategies in their everyday lives, is to recognize the need for change and to also WANT to live change. One obstacle is often a lack of emotional understanding. Just because we understand intellectually where we want to go (sometimes with great effort), this does not always mean that we are emotionally ready to embark on the journey. At this point, when I reflected on this and especially when I started my research….., I found myself faced with a bit of a divide – quite parallel to these reflections – when I started my research on fundamental values and the topic of this article.
Beside other things, I focused on the fundamental values of human relations and came across the experiment conducted by Shalom Schwartz (along with Wolfgang Bilsky) in the 1980’s to formulate universally applicable human fundamental values – originally there were ten (in 2012, with the help of a team of internal scientists he expanded the list to include nineteen):
Power– Social status and prestige, control or dominance over people and resources
Achievement– personal success through demonstrating competence in accordance with social standards
Hedonism – pleasure or sensual self-indulgence
Stimulation– excitement, innovation, challenges in life
Self-Direction– independent thinking and doing, choosing, discovering
Universalism– understanding, recognition, tolerance, and protection for the well-being of all humans and nature
Benevolence– preserving and expanding the well-being of those with which one has regular contact
Tradition– respect, commitment, and acceptance of the customs and ideas passed down by traditional cultures and religions
Conformity– restriction of actions, tendencies, and impulses which may offend or harm others and which go against social expectations and norms.
Security– safety, harmony, stability of society, of relationships and of oneself (Schwartz and Bilsky, 1987)
All this sounds good and certainly interesting- BUT it’s the same for me as for a lot of employees who come across their corporate values on a sheet of paper or on the intranet and wonder, how does this help me?
In the course of my work with leaders (“The Sound of Leadership”), I asked my colleagues in my role as an orchestral musician, as an employee, to write down the principles they value the most in a successful cooperation with our leader, the conductor. They mentioned qualities such as trust, respect, working selflessly with the material at hand (in our case music), fairness, clarity, candor, transparency, communication with everyone, having a sense of responsibility, etc. As an average employee, this definitely sounds better to me, this I can work with!
I often rather catch myself identifying with exactly those qualities than with the smart and well thought out insights of specialists! Like many coworkers in my field, I do not want to concern myself with fancy words and lofty values. I have other “worries” and challenges, particularly of intellectual nature! Enough is enough – done. Over. Finito. Finished.
Suddenly all the good concepts, strategies, visions, resolutions, and changes no longer stand a chance…
So what to do? How can corporate management make people interested in these important topics?
Basically there is only one way: we must combine the contextual level with a certain level of experience! This is certainly not a new discovery, even science has supported these claims for a while (e.g. behavioral economics or sociology), but this fact has to be remembered again and again! And we have to look for opportunities to make this intellectual knowledge gained through experience perceptible, to really anchor it. It is exclusively through this manner that an emotional investment and bond can be created, which makes change possible.
So, find projects and topics that are close to you and that personally move you as a leader, as executive management, and tap into them whether they are suitable for all the values and attitudes you expect from or at least wish to be shown by your employees, and whether it is possible to experience, feel and live them – and internalize them.
As a musician I can naturally highly recommend the power of classical music, which touches every person (whether or not they believe it!). Particularly effective is working in combination with established professional musicians and their experience in adjusting exactly to company-specific situations. For one thing, this is how the most important issues of the new direction are perceptible, noticeable and experienced. For another thing, it reinforces implemented changes through a sense of achievement.
The most common feedback we receive for our work (“The Sound of Leadership”) is the incomparable speed and intensity with which leaders experience, adapt and develop their values and attitudes.
Let’s start talking, I’m looking forward to hearing from you!
With kind and spirited regards,