By Amanda Ronan
Do you know the story of the brand Patagonia? Yvon Chouinard began the company out of a need for better quality and reusable mountain climbing equipment. When he branched out into clothing, he knew he wanted to use sustainable materials that lasted a long time. He did not want his clothes to end up in landfills.1
Today, the company will repair any piece of clothing you have, even non-Patagonia pieces. When you are done with a Patagonia item, they will help you sell it to someone else. They actively ask their customers, “Do you really need this item?” because they want to reduce waste and protect the environment.1
If that is not enough, when the surfs up outside of their Ventura, California, offices, they ask their employees to take a break and go surfing. They value the power of nature on creativity and mental health. Despite being the sole owner of the multi-million-dollar brand, Chouinard takes five months off every year to go fishing.2
Putting all of this in place has not been difficult. Chouinard simply created a business that stuck very closely to his values of environmentalist and individualism. He had a clear vision for his business all along and his values always guided his decisions. He created a team that understood his vision, believed in it, and wanted to help build the company by being ambassadors for that vision.
Increasing your employees’ awareness of value alignment will give them a deeper understanding of the company’s purpose and their guiding principles. This connection inevitably leads to increased engagement. Here are some ways to help you create alignment between your business and values.
1. Leaders Must Live It
Employees look to their leaders as role models for the culture they’re going to embody. If you are going to expect employees to act a certain way and do business with certain values in mind, these principles must be demonstrated from the top down.
A value-driven leadership is a pathway to organizational success. It is a commitment made by leaders at all levels to lead with their values and create a culture that optimizes the business performance. Patagonia is successful because Chouinard never strayed from his personal belief system. And when he did, he instantly knew it and course corrected.
One day, Chouinard realized that the products he sold to his rock climbing customers were contributing to the degradation of the rock face. He then designed and created a new device that would cause less harm. To show that it would work, Chouinard and one of his young climbers went back up the Nose route on El Capitan using only the new product and technique. He didn’t just ask his team or his customers to accept something, he demonstrated to everyone the value of his ideas through both his words and his actions.3
2. Training Must Happen
You cannot just hand your employees a sheet with a list of values. There must be training in what these values are, what they look like and feel like. Employees must identify what will happen when they are working in alignment with the values. Orient team members to the company’s ethics and goals and use their performance in relation to the stated values as a determinant of rewards and recognition.
3. Programs and Communications Must Reflect Values
If you have a business value of sustainability but preform actions, like say, host weekly lunches from fast food places that deliver in styrofoam containers and plastic bags, your company is not in alignment. Your perks, programs and communications must show that the values you chose for the company guide your decisions.
4. Alignment Must Be Assessed
When something is assessed, it is addressed. Set up ways to test whether you are really acting in accordance with your values. Ask your customers. Hire consultants. Listen to your employees. Get feedback about how aligned your vision and practices are. Even if you get positive results, keep assessing so you do not slip into contrary practices. Staying aligned with your company’s core purpose and values can help companies excel.
5. New Hires Must Be Tested
When you interview people, include a values-based assessment. Find out if the person fits the culture of your values. If they do, hire them! If they do not, pass. Recognize the people in your business who live the values. Share their stories with the company. Conversely, train people who are struggling with the values. Staying aligned to your values only works if you have 100% buy in.
When you run your business in accordance with your values, you will know when you are on the right track. It will feel right. Not only that, but you will feel comfortable as a leader. You will not make questionable decisions that you cannot support to your employees, because your values will guide the way. If you are not sure about your leadership or management skills, you can consider pursuing an MBA in with an Emphasis in Leadership. You will discover skills you never knew you had and grow the confidence to make your personal values the bedrock of your business.
You can enhance your leadership skills at Grand Canyon University by pursuing a degree in MBA with an Emphasis in Leadership. To learn more about how GCU’s Colangelo College of Business provides leaders with guidance toward building a values-based business, click the Request More Information Button on this page.
1Retrieved from Branding Strategy Insider, Patagonia In The Making: My Founder’s Story, in March 2021.
2Retrieved from Outside Online, Let My People Go Surfing, in March 2021.
3Retrieved from Patagonia, The Nose Wipe – Removing Trash from The Nose of El Capitan, in March 2021.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.