Let’s talk about value. Once, long ago, there was a vision for the company where you’re working. Something so important to do that, even if you failed, the world would be better off for you having tried. But it’s been years of long hours and sleepless nights, for what? You’ve got nothing much to show for all your effort. Your boss has been talking about building a “positive work environment,” one that promotes creativity and empowers you to perform at your best, for ages. Nothing that matters seems to change. You’re still invisible to senior executives. What is really missing for the higher-ups to recognize you as the top talent and the rockstar you are?
I say only two things are necessary. First, they need to see a clear link between you and what specific value you’re adding to the company’s bottom line. Second, it really does matter how you do that. They want to know that, as you go about making your unique contribution, your attitude, your words, and your actions reflect the values that drive the organization’s brand.
Bottom line: you need to connect yourself to what former Baxter International CEO Harry Kraemer and I call “value/s.” Literally, a specific chunk of value (the goal of your role) and the company’s core set of values (your guideposts in getting there). Here are three tips to quickly test these connections in your current position.*
- Clarify Your Responsibilities
Each role in an organization has its own “path” or area of responsibility. If you don’t already know specifically what that is, talk to your boss about the value your role is responsible for either creating, protecting, or enabling. What portion of the whole company’s ambition does that represent? With this information, you can dynamically shift and modify your priorities, while keeping your ultimate goal in mind, no matter what your circumstances.
- Check Your Setup
Factors, both internal and external to the company, are always influencing how you deliver what’s expected of your role. Externally, look at the complexity and difficulty of the situation in which you operate. There may be market challenges, shifting consumer trends or geopolitical realities to be faced. Internally, make sure your role has appropriate decision rights and the necessary access to key decision-makers. Consider whether it is supported with enough of the right resources when they are needed. If not, discuss with your boss what is missing and/or what is standing in the way of your success in this role.
- Observe Values Practiced
Your company will continue to create value driven by values. But don’t look at what gets posted on the walls. What values do you see reflected in people’s words and actions? Which get explicitly discussed in company meetings and referred to in decision making? Senior executives implicitly expect you to demonstrate these. Bring them to every interaction you have with employees, customers, and stakeholders.
*If your role is critical to the value agenda, this reveals design issues that only senior executives can address.