An on-going challenge CEOs and senior executives face is how they bring company values to life. As more leaders embrace the philosophy of authentic and values-based leadership, getting their people to truly understand the values is critical. A 2011 HBR article on The Business of Communicating Values declared, “If a company doesn’t take the time and effort to communicate its values in a meaningful way, then it’s like the old tree falling in the forest cliché. It makes a big splash, but no one is around to appreciate its impact.”Values are worthless unless they are wholly understood and evident within the workplace, subsequently driving decisions and behaviours across the business.
Without making the values personal, employees will not connect and engage with them.
Essentially, they will simply end up being words on a poster or a coffee mug. As a result, organisations are now turning to storytelling as an effective and authentic way to bring their company values alive.
In my work across corporate Australia, I have found that when leaders take the time to identify what the company values mean to them, on both a professional and personal level, they are in a better position to communicate these standards in a more engaging way. Furthermore, when senior leaders take the time to learn the skills required for business storytelling, they can identify personal stories that demonstrate why the company values resonate with them. This not only creates a personal connection to the ethics of the company but also generates a number of stories that they can actively share within the workplace to demonstrate their commitment to the values.
The story at NAB
NAB are leading the way when it comes to using storytelling to embed their values. Michaela Healey, Group Executive, NAB said, “Having identified our values by listening to our people, it was important that we could share the values in a way that would resonate and stick. We have found that using personal experiences to illustrate the values in action has embedded them across NAB much more quickly and authentically than we could have hoped.”
Healthy leadership at BUPA
Hisham El-Ansary is the Managing Director of BUPA Health Services and is also a strong advocate of using storytelling to bring company values alive. Over the last couple of years, BUPA has used storytelling to help personalise the values throughout the organisation. El-Ansary mentions that while this is not an easy accomplishment, “it was clear that if we wanted to be seen as an authentic company, we had to have leaders who were prepared to communicate in an authentic way and stories are an effective way to do this.”
NAB and BUPA are having great success with embedding their values via storytelling and are best practice examples of how to implement storytelling. Companies who introduce storytelling effectively not only invest in training their leaders in this skill but also their key support areas, such as Corporate Affairs and HR, as well as other key influencers. They also understand the importance of authenticity, empathy, and the power of showing vulnerability. Ultimately, if leaders are skilled in the art of business storytelling, they can use stories to not only personalise the company values but also communicate other key messages within the workplace.