Built on Values: Creating an Enviable Culture that Outperforms the Competition
January 2011, Jossey-Bass
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BUILT ON VALUES
JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, and Doubletree Hotels are known throughout the world for their high-performing cultures. Ann Rhoades, the President of People Ink, has worked with all three of these admired companies, along with many others. As an executive at Southwest Airlines and as part of the team that launched JetBlue, she helped those companies develop the trail-blazing, values-based workplaces they have become known for, and which are at the heart of their phenomenal success. Her new book, BUILT ON VALUES: Creating an Enviable Culture That Outperforms the Competition (Jossey-Bass, January 2011) offers an insider’s look at how any organization can follow the same path to a work environment that attracts and retains top talent, and delivers quality products and exceptional customer service.
The cornerstone to Rhoades’ strategy lies in crafting a “Values Blueprint.” This clear, concise, one-page document identifies the values that are vital to the organization, along with the specific behaviors that express those values. “Just as you would not build a house working off only an image in your head, you cannot build a lasting culture without a written Blueprint,” explains Rhoades. “Whenever a decision needs to be made, employees at all levels (even the C-suite) should be able to find the right answer there.” In BUILT ON VALUES, Rhoades shows how to develop a Values Blueprint that is agreed upon, respected, and can get into every employee’s bloodstream.
To truly, and sustainably, transform a workplace culture, the Values Blueprint must be explicitly linked to organizational processes, starting with hiring. “Just because someone is skilled and experienced does not mean they are right for your organization,” writes Rhoades. Companies must ensure that they hire only “A Players” who display the company’s values.
To accomplish this, Rhoades advocates the creation of interview teams made up of peers to assess prospective employees. This peer system has helped to bring in the right people and to reduce turnover at such organizations as JetBlue, Juniper Networks, and P.F. Chang’s. BUILT ON VALUES includes a sample Interview Guide, so interviewers can evaluate candidates based on “their heads -- not their guts,” as Rhoades counsels.
Hiring is just the beginning. BUILT ON VALUES also details how the Values Blueprint must be clearly tied to measuring and reviewing employee performance; to rewarding employees; and to leadership communication. For example, if the Blueprint emphasizes innovation as a value, are there programs in place that encourage risk-taking? Or are employees punished for mistakes? Rhoades argues for including peers in the review process; implementing variable.
compensation, where employees get greater benefits for excellence rather than simply being rewarded for seniority; and taking a flexible and innovative approach to benefits.
As for leaders, Rhoades contends that, not only is it essential that they mirror the values adopted by the organization, they must also find new ways to connect with their people, by regularly visiting and working alongside front line employees. And, especially in tough times, they must build trust by personally communicating both positives and negatives with their people.
BUILT ON VALUES offers step-by-step guidelines for implementing Rhoades’ proven methods, including an extensive Leader’s Toolbox section, featuring such tools as sample Values Blueprints; an outline for training interviewers; and examples of survey questions for assessing an organization’s culture.
Based on her twenty-five years of experience, Rhoades warns that leaders who dismiss the importance of culture, do so at their company’s peril. “Whether you focus on it or not, a culture will develop -- and it will likely nurture all the wrong behaviors and outcomes,” she says. BUILT ON VALUES provides a clear roadmap for accomplishing the culture change that will usher in remarkable business success.