Four values to guide leaders and agencies facing an uncertain future
How would you rank work-life in your organization? Give yourself a score, one to 10. When someone challenged me to score others recently, I noticed something unique. The organizations that ranked high did so because they have been living out their values. You can clearly tell what’s important to these organizations just by looking at their outward actions and listening to their sound bites. I’ll bet employees in these organizations feel good about their jobs and their goals too.
We can learn something from those who scored 10s. For leaders facing a future with many unknowns, focusing on values may be a navigational beacon. Here are four timely values that resonate:
As an organization, honesty is about being authentic. Honesty is about presenting ourselves clearly and consistently while telling the unvarnished truth. When an organization acts authentically, employees (and other stakeholders) know what to expect, and trust grows. In an environment where the line between personal life and work-life has blurred, the feeling that you know and trust the organization you’re connected to is the difference between thriving and surviving, satisfied versus disengaged, adaptive versus inflexible.
Transparency is similar to honesty, implying openness, but adding in motivation too. No one wants to worry about hidden agendas or shifting priorities. We like to know the score.
Why is transparency critical right now? So much has changed in the last year that old management models that rely on command and control simply don’t work. Our employees have been given an unprecedented amount of autonomy and asked to problem solve on their own. They now require understanding why so they can determine how.
Kindness isn’t a value that is traditionally associated with the workplace, yet I would argue that many leaders wear it well. There is an appetite for kindness right now – compassion for ourselves and others.
Agencies are increasingly being judged on their behaviors and called out for acts that are unkind or seemingly unfair. Most importantly, leading with kindness feels good. It eases anxiety and builds bridges. And it’s easy to do. When you scored your organization, did someone’s kindness (or lack thereof) influence how your workplace feels right now?
I’ve already covered the need for trust – however, focusing on building it is an important value itself.
We sacrificed huge amounts of trust last year, from the horrors of a pandemic to civil unrest to a contentious election cycle. As a result, we’re looking for things we can trust, like a foundation on which to rebuild.
There are systemic drivers of mistrust that undermine the public’s perception of government. However, agencies are, by design, the foundation of our country – a source for assistance and guidance, and a place for experts and answers. Public servants, who dedicate years and careers to government work, can bridge divides and bring government closer to those it serves. Each leader, whether in the public or private sector, is tasked to do our part to help with that goal.
Working from home and facing life-altering changes has allowed employees to reevaluate their core values, beliefs and motivations. Leaders need to realign employees to organizational values. Live and lead by example. Reinforce that although much has changed in the last year, our missions aren’t one of them. By focusing on values – honestly, transparency, kindness and trust – we can bring clarity and purpose to the days ahead.
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Edward Tuorinsky, Managing Principal at DTS, a government consultant business, is a service-disabled veteran who brings nearly two decades of experience to DTS in the areas of leadership, management consulting and information technology services.