Life Beyond the US Presidential Election: How Crucial are Visions and Values?

Published November 10, 2016

#unity

That is a word that has been seen 2.39 million times on Twitter in the 24 hours since the 2016 US Presidential Election.

This is a global response to the anxiety that has been widely reported during the Trump and Clinton campaigns, as well as the immediate reactions within the United States. As evidenced above, public figures and voices across social media are calling for optimism and a trust in democracy at this time. Likely, it reflects a sobering realisation that the nature of this particular leadership race has fiercely divided an entire population. We know from occupational psychology that an organisation pulling in different directions does not achieve success.

It is the reason why you see the most successful organisations around the world with a clearly defined vision. This refers to the image an organisation casts about what it wants to achieve in the future. It may sound like just a nice thing to have, but in fact research suggests that a vision facilitates more effort among individuals in a) working better as a team, and b) using their knowledge and skills to complete tasks to a greater standard (Bratianu, Jianu & Vasilache, 2007).

At a&dc, our vision is to “Ensure HR has an equal voice in shaping business strategy”. Of course, there are some conditions that influence the extent to which this vision has an impact. Bratianu and Balanescu (2015) note that the vision has to account for the current reality of the organisation or the industry, otherwise it will not have any power in the minds of employees. In our case at a&dc, we know that functions responsible for managing people development and recruitment do not always have an equal voice, and we know that’s wrong. 

Importantly, a vision must also connect to the core values of the organisation’s employees. This poses a question; what if your employees have different personal values?

Organisations often have a set of corporate values which illustrate effective ways to achieve the vision, but don’t force people to immediately change their personalities or internal values system. For example, when I first joined a&dc I was naturally very Agile and Collaborative because I was eager to learn, but it was respected and accepted that I was less Rigorous or Bold because I was finding my first steps in a new field of psychology. Over time and experience, I’ve become more attentive to detail and more courageous in standing for what I believe in, meaning I’ve become more aligned with our corporate values.

This did not happen by chance; I’ve had some great role models that have guided me on that journey. Leaders cannot leave it to chance. Leaders have a duty to facilitate everyone’s progress towards the vision, and that means creating a vision to which everyone can get on board. That means creating a set of corporate values that clearly link to that vision. That means living with values that account for the diversity in your organisation, that are within scope for everyone to adapt their behaviour in some way.

According to research (eg Edwards, 2009) this will only work if leaders go the extra mile. A leader has to actively be seen by employees living their collective organisational values, and coaching others to live them too.

So to leaders, current and future; live like this, and you may just make your promise of #unity a reality.

Author: Jordon Jones

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