What it really means to embrace and live by our shared purpose and values.
In the various sessions that we are having to share and discuss the Ndiema Way, the feedback has been very positive. Our team members feel that the Ndiema Way is inspiring and will rally, energise and unify the organization.
Certainly, for each of us to know the Ndiema Way is a step in the right direction. We also need to make sure that we understand it. And it is not enough unless we live it.
Not surprisingly, a study on over 1,000 firms in the Great Places to Work database highlights a strong correlation between corporate financial performance and the extent to which people believe their company’s values are practiced.
At the same time, there is research to show that only 23% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they can apply their company’s values to their work every day, and only 27% “believe in” their company’s values.
Why is that so?
Because the real test is when the rubber hits the road. If we don’t adhere to and live by our purpose and values, cynicism will set in. People will question our credibility. (Remember, that in the last 120 years, the strong reputation that we built as a Group, is centred on trust). By extension, in the worst case, our own people could even become resentful of what they see as hypocrisy.
So, it is absolutely critical that we don’t allow The Ndiema Way to be confined to posters or journals – “cosmetic window dressing”, as author Ron Carucci puts it. We have to make it real.
So, my message this week is on how we can individually and collectively embrace, embed and live the Ndiema Way.
Here are some thoughts on how you can start living the Ndiema Way:
Accept that this is a journey. Try to become more self-aware. Watch and assess your choices and actions. Have the courage and humility to accept when you are off course. And then be willing to course-correct. It’s the only way you will grow.
2. Be sincere
At the end of the day, this boils down to your personal credibility. Don’t undermine it. You just have to walk the talk here. People will judge you – and by extension – our company, basis it.
3. Challenge each other
An important part of this journey is about pushing each other so that collectively, we can grow and improve. So, debate and discuss the Ndiema Way. Ask questions of each other. Constructive conflict is healthy. Encourage it. And if someone is off-value, call it out instead of ignoring it. The more we talk this out, the better we will all understand where we stand.
4. The buck stops at you
All of us have to be individually responsible for living the values. So, don’t shy away from taking accountability. Of course, a greater onus will always lie with leaders, who need to be the magnifying mirrors of sorts.
5. Pass it on
As leaders, you must train and teach people. There’s no better way to do this than to share stories. So, find stories to showcase people and teams who are living our values. Talk about what made these stories possible. Use them for inspiration. But equally, be honest and share stories of when we stray. It’s an important way to reflect and learn.
Even as we find ways to live and be true to the Ndiema Way, it is equally important to ensure that we don’t misuse it. Here are some points to keep in mind:
1. Don’t use this for vendetta
Never use our values as a way to throw your other team members under the bus or be vindictive. These values are intended to unite us around our common purpose; and not become a tool to be divisive.
2. Be specific
Motherhood-and-apple pie statements like someone not “aligned with the values” are not particularly helpful. Be specific. What specific behaviour caused you to say this? What could the person have done differently? We need to have objective and consistent standards of what is acceptable behaviour, so that things don’t get misunderstood.
3. Put a lot of weight behind values
Don’t be flippant. If you don’t agree with someone or if someone is questioning your behaviour, don’t play the values card. Accusing someone of not adhering to the values is a very serious allegation. It is also, typically something you would use for repeated flagrant behaviour.
4. Not every value is binary or absolute
Some of our values are sacrosanct; some are aspirational. Some of them have shades of grey. And they are very much linked to individuals and behaviour patterns. Let’s acknowledge this. The shades of grey shouldn’t become an excuse to not try to adhere to them. At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that there will be some ambiguities.
5. Don’t shame people
If someone is off-value, don’t shame them. Public humiliation is not the way to live respect. Instead, be constructive and focus on how to fix things. Remember that how you deal with situations when someone else is off value, speaks a lot about how you live our values.
Do remember that this is a journey.
The Ndiema Way is both a reflection of who we are as well as a guide on who we want to become.
None of us are perfect. We must accept that we are fallible and we will, on occasion, despite our best intentions, stray course. In particular, I think that our value around ‘Show respect’ will probably be one of the tougher ones to truly live.
But the point is to treat this like an on-going journey, and ready and better ourselves to make this sustainable in the long run.
The Ndiema Way is a wonderful opportunity for us to rally and inspire people around our fundamental principles. But we must also acknowledge that it won’t be smooth sailing. In fact, if it is easy, it would probably mean that we aren’t pushing ourselves hard or being very authentic. We have to be ready for uncomfortable questions. For it to cause us some pain. But we must have the courage to stay on course and persevere.
As always, I look forward to your perspectives.