SALEM SAMHOUD WAS INTERVIEWED ON VISION, VALUES AND DISCIPLINE FOR THE 16-2011 ISSUE OF KPMG’S CORPORATE MAGAZINE ‘ZOUT’. WITH THANKS TO KPMG FOR THEIR PERMISSION TO REPRODUCE THE INTERVIEW HERE.
Core values represent an organization’s deep-rooted convictions and the objectives for its behaviour. Nowadays, nearly every organization seems to have documented these core values. But what is the best way to convert these core values into desired behaviour, in a change process for example? According to Salem Samhoud, founder of the strategic consultancy firm &samhoud, leaders make a mistake if they focus exclusively on core values without considering their higher goal, their audacious goal and their core qualities. For a company to be successful, management and employees have to learn to express the company’s core values and qualities and its higher and audacious goal on a daily basis. “In this transparent world, it is not enough to acknowledge values verbally; you have to experience them every day.” The only way to do that is through reflection and discipline.“I try to counsel leaders who only concentrate on core values. They will fail, because spirituality is not only about core values but about four essential elements: the core values, the higher goal, the audacious goal and the core qualities. The trick is to get these four elements to balance, since the spirituality of organizations, countries, and even individuals revolves around these four elements. The importance of spirituality is often still underestimated in the Dutch business community. A lot of time and money are spent to defining the how and the what, while little thought is given to the why and the what for. It is the combination of good operational management and spirituality that makes it possible to be successful these days.”
Finding a balance
“What is the higher goal? The question for the higher goal is: why do you exist, why do you do what you do? Some people refer to the answer to that question as a mission statement. This higher goal is kept in balance by the audacious goal. You also ask: what do I wish to achieve? The goal of actually achieving something very difficult keeps an organization sharp and focused. But too much ambition can also mean that you forget the core values. Therefore, core values are very important here. They revolve around the question: How do you deal with one another? Taking that question seriously prevents ambition from becoming overpowering, that people and human values are ignored. Core qualities define: what do I excel at? Reflection on core qualities is important in preventing yourself from becoming too ‘soft’ by emphasising the core values. But here, too, there is another pitfall: if you only attract experts and specialists, the organization may lose sight of the whole and become detached from the higher goal. People will only enjoy working at your company when you have all four components in balance.”
“People must know why they do what they do, what the higher and audacious goals are and which values and qualities they represent. If they are convinced of that, you have come a long way in the right direction, but with a number of inspiring sessions you are not there yet. The most difficult and important thing is to connect the organization to these goals, values and qualities for the long term, a process that requires intensive and consistent discipline. Core values only mean something when they are translated into assessment mechanisms for which you can hold each other accountable on a daily basis. If the company vision is the actual source of inspiration and driving force, you have to dare to keep holding each other to that vision. A vision will often be used as a fig leaf that hides everything that goes wrong in the company. If that is the case, you do not take the spirituality process seriously enough. A vision clarifies an organization’s right to exist and creates long-term value. Therefore, a company also has to consistently dare to act on a vision once it has been formulated and well thought out. The higher goal, the audacious goal, the core values and the core qualities must appear all over the corporate system. If they are not in the total system, their effect is limited. Employees also develop a personal vision. This enhances the connection and employees learn in teams how to better utilise each other’s strengths and stimulate each other to reach their goals.”
Lack of vision
“This is better understood in Asia and the United States than in the Netherlands. In Asia, our company fits almost perfectly in a culture in which the importance of spirituality, core values and discipline is a given. We can accomplish a lot there because companies are dealing with solid growth and with the problem of how to rapidly discipline new employees so they fit in the company culture. We can also help them to communicate even better, since Asians often have difficulty in openly telling each other the truth. We fit better in Asia than in the Netherlands. This country lacks a vision. The country´s leaders only talk about what we have to do, but not in relation to the other questions: Why do we want to do that? How do we deal with one another? Where are we headed? The current team of government ministers lacks the training to understand these questions within their context, but for voters, the problem of norms and values still has the highest priority. Former Prime Minister Balkenende understood that well, but he mentioned only one of the four elements. What the Netherlands needs is a vision and unsparing discipline to comply with it. If we fail to do that, we will become an old country that loses the battle, and will be confronted with declining prosperity. Without a stable captain at the helm, there will be a price to pay.”