People actually follow visions and values when they commit to them, see them turned into followable guiding principles, practice them consistently and have them reinforced. We’ve become so used to people’s actions having so little in common with organizations’ stated values that it’s hardly even noteworthy when that happens. If job No. 1 for any CEO is to own the vision and values, they fail if people aren’t following them. These four steps can make that happen.

1) Commit to values

As described in an earlier article on What Matters and Why, if you want your people to commit to your vision and values you need to let them co-create them. You’re going to get the commitment you deserve. Tell and you’ll get compliance. Invite contribution and you’ll get contribution. Commitment requires real co-creation. If you can’t do that, stop reading here and put tight controls in place because your people are going to do what they think they can away with.

2) Turn your values into followable guiding principles

Bill Belicheck has this right. Recruit for values. Manage with guiding principles. Values are important. But they are ethereal. People may know they’re good. But they don’t know what to do with them. Guiding principles tell them what to do without the constraint of policies.

People happily work in an organization that values the team. They know what to do in an organization that guides them to commit to support and collaborate with each other. The closer you get to one over-arching guiding principle, the more likely people are to follow it.

3) Practice those value-based guiding principles consistently

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. — Will Durant

Commitment gives you desire. Guidelines give you direction. Practice makes it stick.

Embed your values through guiding principles brought to life in your ADEPT talent practices (Acquire, Develop, Encourage, Plan, Transition.)

  • Identify and recruit people who share your values and bring them onboard in a way that reflects your value-based guiding principles.
  • Develop people in line with your guiding principles.
  • Recognize and reward people in line with your guiding principles. The results they deliver matter. They way they deliver those results matters just as much.
  • Take your guiding principles into account as you plan and transition people across, up or out.

Everything communicates. People will notice if these efforts follow or do not follow your guiding principles.

4) Reinforce your vision and values over and over again

As the CEO, owner, leader, you must own the vision and values. And you must own them all the time.

Atrium Health’s President and CEO Gene Woods drives their mission “to improve health, elevate hope and advance healing, for all” all the time. He starts every meeting with what is known throughout the organization as a “Connect to Purpose.” Every meeting. Every board meeting. Every leadership meeting. In fact, every gathering within in the organization begins in this same way. Different teammates and even invited guests are encouraged to highlight stories to remind themselves about what matters and remain connected to the positive impact they make.

You can see this in their annual report. It’s full of stories like “Who is Madie DeBruhl?” (12-year-old bone marrow transplant patient.) Or “Who is Shelly Cooley?” (Nurse who goes well beyond the call of duty to help other people grow.) Or “Who is Lee Beatty?” (Family medicine physician who epitomizes how to “Deliver the gift of humanity.”)

Over the past couple of years I’ve worked with two companies where safety was paramount in the heavy manufacturing and coal mining space. Each of those companies started every meeting with a “Safety minute.” Someone in the meeting had to share an idea or provide an update that would help everyone in the meeting be safe.

When I ran the Puritan cooking oil business, we were all about “healthy.” I started every meeting by asking how that meeting was either going to make our consumers healthier or our business healthier. If people didn’t know the answer, I walked out. People learned what they had to do to get me to stay.

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