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Don't dilute the message – Jane Sunley discusses leadership: part two

10 November 2011
Don't dilute the message – Jane Sunley discusses leadership: part two

The second part of a series of extracts from Learnpurple's book, Purple Your People, the author and company chief executive Jane Sunley discusses visions, missions and values

At Learnpurple we use the "Purple Plan" to help businesses join up the all important "people stuff" and really get people motoring when it comes to delivering on a brand which is so business critical in a service situation. The significance of a culture cannot be underestimated when it comes to gaining competitive advantage. Those organisations with a strong culture who define it and, most importantly, find a way to ensure everyone who works there "gets" what the brand is all about and what they need to do to deliver it to the best of their ability. This is easy when a company is small; where the character and values of the founders permeates the organisation seemingly by osmosis. It gets harder as companies grow.

The message dilutes and often they lose the special x-factor that distinguished them from the rest. This is where writing down and communicating the vision, mission and values comes into play. Some people groan when you mention this and dismiss it as textbook speak. You don't have to label the stuff that makes up your culture, though it is necessary to need to define, with absolute clarity, what you stand for.

Quick and easy definitions are:

â- Mission - what the organisation is.

â- Values - important shared beliefs and ideals that define organisational culture.

We're not in favour of long mission and/or vision statements that no one, not even the CEO, can remember. You'd be surprised at the number of well-respected companies that put 100 words on a brushed-stainless steel plaque in their reception area and then hope everyone "gets it". It's really essential that every single team member and potential team member can easily understand what you're all about; how we do things around here, the non-negotiables and the no-nos, what you stand for; and where you're going. This message has to be consistent throughout the organisation.

Google and Facebook define their mission in a clear, succinct way so each employee knows what they are contributing to as they go about their daily purpose. It enables a sense of progression and value which is vital when it comes to staying inspired to giving one's best. Google's mission is to "organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful", while Facebook's mission is "to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected". The Learnpurple mission and vision is combined to make things even simpler: Transformation.

When it comes to values they have to be memorable and vitally: Leaders (at all levels) must live those values every day and never compromise them.

If you haven't yet defined your values it's important to do this properly and inclusively. This is a time when investment in a facilitator is money well spent. Involve and engage people so that everyone can relate to and buy into your values. Don't just say "these are our values" and expect everyone to start living them. What works is to not only define the values but spend some time making sure each person knows what they mean to them. If one of your values is "achievement", for example, then make sure everything you do is outcome focused, that people know what a good job looks like for them and how they'll know they've achieved it.

Once you start using your values to underpin everything you do, talking about them on a daily basis, using them to help make decisions and shape your products and services, so they become memorable. Until you're at that stage, however, some people put their values on posters or credit card-sized reminders, which is a start. In our view, far better though is to find a way to make sure people actually remember them, relate to them, like them and feel proud - that way they can truly live them every day. We like using mnemonics and acronyms because otherwise it's really hard for anyone to remember.

Reflecting your values throughout every stage of the employee journey is a powerful way to run your business and strengthen your brand. For example, going through what you're about at interview stage and reaffirming this during induction and beyond makes sure new people know exactly what to expect - it's also really motivating, too. Ask candidates from the beginning "Can you fully commit to these values?" and if they can't then, unless there's a really good reason for employing that person, don't take them on. It's unusual that someone can thrive and survive if they don't "get" what you're about. This is particularly true of organisations (like most of those in hospitality) where people can make or break the brand.

Then you need to continually remind. Feed your values every day by referencing them in the decisions you take and throughout the way you operate. Talk values all the time and make reference to them in everything you do. You should also review your values annually, perhaps at your company meeting or conference, as it's important to make sure they are still absolutely relevant and true for your organisation.

purple your people by jane sunley
The secrets to inspired, happy, more profitable people, is a practical, fun and easy to digest guide to the ‘people stuff' aimed at all organisations wanting to create exceptionally talented, high performing teams.
Published by Crimson Publishing
ISBN 978-1-78059-046-2
£12.99

Jane Sunley from Learnpurple discusses leadership

Watch the video - Leadership with Jane Sunley

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Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

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