When it comes to transforming culture, using Values Based Leadership (VBL) as the foundation can be a huge game-changer. Organizations that foster a values-based approach to leadership create connections that have a significant impact on organizational outcomes—including higher levels of engagement, lower levels of turnover, and increased alignment around a company’s purpose and mission. Clearly articulated values, and the behaviors that support them, help guide team members in the way they interact with each other and with clients or customers.

It’s important when establishing the values for a company to have many voices in the process.  We’ve seen organizations where one leader has strong ideas about what the values should be and then does all the work to the exclusion of their colleagues’ involvement. This approach does not have the same payoff as a group of folks who are fully invested in the organization working together to articulate what really matters regarding the culture. There’s more buy-in when it’s a team effort and not just one individual’s idea!

At InnerWill, we believe that every person is a leader and that every person has the choice to lead and live and work according to their personal values. However, if you want a culture to take on the values and the behaviors that the organization has articulated, it’s imperative that the leadership of the organization models them. It would be so much easier if organizations could change from the bottom up or even from the middle, but organizations don’t work that way. Most organizations are driven from the top down, with senior leaders at the controls. They determine if a culture moves, which makes them the real change-makers.

Modeling is one of the most powerful tools in the leadership toolbox. The idea is simple: If you want others to do something, you must do it first. Values lose credibility when leadership talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk. Senior leadership needs to model the new behaviors required by the culture they want to create – and not just modeling success but also making mistakes, and then acknowledging those mistakes and moving forward better and stronger. Because, in fact, that’s what everyone will be doing in the process. Learning, making mistakes, getting back up and doing it again. The more that leaders can be intentional about living the behaviors that have been articulated and the more they can repeat these behaviors, the more neuropathways are created and the easier it gets. It becomes more and more automatic over time.

Once the senior leadership is aligned and the values are articulated, it’s time to roll them out to the organization.  This means integrating them into everything from orientation and trainings to recognizing and rewarding values-centric behaviors.  Encourage and initiate Values Based conversations. Start a meeting by focusing on a particular behavior.  Talk about what it means, what it looks like, where it shows up, and when it creates challenges. Ask, “what difference would it make if every associate could live into that value behavior a little bit more?”  Keep the conversations going and keep the behaviors fresh in people’s minds.

Give affirming feedback to people who are demonstrating those values behaviors. Ken Blanchard talks about taking a few minutes each day to affirm what people do well, give them some developmental feedback and remind them of the mission of the organization. This approach is very useful in moving towards a Values Based culture.  Building a Values Based culture takes a deep commitment and a lot of work, but when the time and energy is devoted to doing so, the results are incredible!

What’s something that your organization is doing to transform your culture and make it ever better?


Carla Ruiz

Carla Ruiz

Carla’s mission is to fuel growth and development by affirming strengths, challenging beliefs, and igniting potential through Values Based Leadership. She presents, facilitates, and coaches in a variety of leadership programs and with companies intentional about strengthening their culture. In her role as a Leadership Development Coach, she is passionate about increasing emotional intelligence, which she believes is the cornerstone of effective leadership.

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