How do your values and core beliefs impact how you lead? We all hold certain values. Our values and core beliefs are critical components of who we are.

Do you check your values at the door of the office or do they guide your actions?

What do you do when your core beliefs become misaligned with the actions of the organization?

These are important questions for leaders to weigh before a crisis of conflict (or conscience) occurs – not after. #Best Advice  Consider a client example that I’ve witnessed. [The names have been changed for privacy purposes.]

Ralph has reached the pinnacle of the sales and marketing organization in a large global organization. As SVP of Sales and Marketing, Ralph is responsible for all upstream and downstream marketing as well as a well-managed salesforce. Ralph’s core values include:

  • Loyalty
  • Dedication
  • Integrity
  • Hard work
  • Collaboration

This is a simple list that anyone could identify with and adhere to, right? Ralph thought so. These are the beliefs and values that got him to the top of his profession in record time. How could such a short list that had served him as a dependable North Star turn into conflict?

Under Ralph’s leadership, a multi-year competitive advantage was created by a steady stream of innovative products that solved customer challenges unaddressed by any competitor. With a seemingly bottomless bag of innovation, Ralph’s sales team was highly favored above the competition. The twist in this story occurred with the reaction of Ralph’s organization when competitors began closing the gap between products and services where Ralph’s company had an advantage.

While Ralph wanted to double-down on R&D to produce even more innovative products through hard work and dedication, other executives were desperate to avoid a sales slump that would send the stock tumbling towards a long-overdue correction. Rather than allocate the investment in R&D that Ralph had proposed, a decision was made to create a quarterly discount budget that would lower prices, sell more product, and hit quarterly revenue projections.

The executive team celebrated this short-term solution while Ralph had conflicted feelings with the ominous implications of this decision. This discounting practice grew and became an expectation among customers. The negotiated contracts and pricing became meaningless as customers responded by waiting until the end of a quarter to take advantage of additional discounts. Sales representatives were rewarded and honored for achieving quota with severely discounted prices in a new culture that no longer valued hard work and integrity. As a result, the organization began losing some its’ best and brightest.

Ralph was a “good soldier” and loyal to his organization yet remained committed to finding a collaborative solution with his fellow executives to get the organization back on track and reverse the ever-expanding discount budget. Ralph became more and more dismayed and increasingly impassioned against overloading customer shelves through hyper-discounts. He even referred to such practices as being akin to Ponzi schemes to hide the truth of declining revenue from Wall Street.

Over time, the executive team met to discuss and review the organization’s five-year strategy. Ralph was first to present…

How do you think the conclusion to this story unfolds? I’d like you to put yourself in Ralph’s shoes and consider the following:

  1. What would be your message to your colleagues?
  2. How would you leverage your core values to influence the direction of the organization?
  3. (How) Could you reconcile the actions of the organization with your core beliefs?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.