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Someone who intends to behave more value-oriented in the workplace often does so already in a personal context

Value-based leadership is an approach that prioritizes and integrates core values and ethical principles into decision-making and actions. Leaders following this approach emphasize principles such as integrity, empathy, transparency, and social responsibility to guide their behavior and interactions. The goal is to create a positive organizational culture, align with stakeholder interests, and foster long-term success based on a strong foundation of shared values and ethical conduct.

Here, Oliver Wyman partner Rainer Munech, and managing partner Terry Stone, discuss how we approach value-based leadership within the firm.

Rainer Muench
Hello, everyone.
My name is Rainer, partner at Oliver Wyman, leading our European team in Retail and Consumer Goods. And I'm here with Terry, managing partner for the Americas at Oliver Wyman.
And today we would like to talk about value-driven leadership.
At Oliver Wyman, we're currently rolling out our five refreshed values.
Be Brave, Lead with Heart, Strive for Breakthroughs, Work as One and Own Your Impact and I’m looking forward to discussing these a bit more with you, Terry. Let's start with: What's your favorite of our new values and why is that?

Terry Stone
I think Work as One is my favorite because I think in order to effectively work as one, you have to actually be living and demonstrating a lot of the other values.
You really do have to be brave, you have to ask challenging questions, but you have to be brave and be willing to let go and listen to other people and play different roles when you're working as one together.
What's yours?

I would pick Lead with Heart.
For many reasons. But one of the reasons is really that I think Leading with Heart also entails following your intuition. And I think very often intuition is a very important element in value-driven leadership to begin with.

Yeah, I love it. I would agree.

I find Strive for Breakthroughs sometimes the hardest because Lead with Heart gets into the way and it's a bit sometimes short-term vs. long-term that I'm confronted with this situation where individuals can be very demanded and stressed about a certain situation and then to still keep the eye on the breakthrough and push harder and motivate even more beyond that point would certainly and will certainly lead to the long-term benefit and to the greater outcome.
But I think in this situation I find it quite hard because if you're very empathetic at that moment, it's hard.

Right, because you're focusing so much.
on that, that you can't push through.
I think what Nick [Studer, Oliver Wyman CEO] first launched it, sometimes people are like” What about the bad actors?” And I'm like, okay, there might be a few, a very small few people who for some reason are missing something in their head.
And they really are bad actors all the time. Most of the time when people are not living up to our values, it's usually because they're focused on another value might be getting in the way.
They're under stress or they're anxious or something's going on. And so, the more we can create space to talk about that, the individual themselves, whether it's me, whether it's you, whether it's the person we're working with, if we create the room in the space to talk about it, they may realize that that's hijacking them, too and they actually don't want to stay where they're stuck and they do want to move to something else. So, I think the more we can create room for that, I think the better.
Because usually it's a hard job and we've both done it for a long time, but sometimes the stress gets in the way, and I think that's actually... being gracious and believing in the imperfection of people and sort of calling them out, but like giving them room to sort of adjust and adapt. I think is what's going to help us get really through all this.

Who inspired me or what inspired me, I thought our former Munich office lead Wolfgang Weidner came to my mind. Because I've just observed so many situations where he really stood up for his team, consultants, and support professionals, in challenging contexts or requirements that he was confronted with in his office leader role. And he just consequently did the right thing.
And he has been brave and selfless in these situations. And to me, that really servedas an inspiration also that already before we refreshed our values, it paid off in the firm to do the right thing and stick to your values and follow them.
What would you generally recommend companies that are keen to move towards a more value-oriented culture and organization?

I think to me, when you're trying to make something really stick, there's a couple of pieces that come together. The first is you have to get people activated and excited. They have to feel emotionally invested in it. And it's why I think these things, like the storytelling, the stories do a lot more than the words on the page in making it come alive. And I think that part is very important.
How do we make sure we spend the same amount of time on highlighting values, breakthroughs, or if we can get really brave, even some values failures that people are willing to speak about themselves? And how do we make it real? How do we make it something that just stays front and centre all the time?”
And I think when you do things like that the whole system kind of keeps reinforcing and repeating and it eventually just starts to embed and stick and then you don't have to pay as much attention to it because it just becomes part of who we are and what we do.

If we zoom in on the individual, what would you recommend someone and what are your tips to someone who is eager to evolve towards more value-oriented behavior in the workplace and who wants really to advance the value-adherence going forward?

So, there's probably some of the values that come naturally and instinctively to you. And there may be other ones that, for one reason or another, are a little harder, right? Assessing that yourself first and then being honest with yourself. But being public doesn't mean you have to stand at a podium and tell the entire firm.
But public might be that you're telling some of your colleagues that you work with regularly, that you're asking for their help, that you're saying, “This is what I want to work on and I think you're actually very good at it.” Or “I notice that at times this is what I struggle with doing. Can you help me here?” And I think we have a great group of people who absolutely want the best for this firm, want the best for each other, and would love to lean in help. What's your trick?

Yeah, what I would add here is that I found that a good place to start with is also to focus on authenticity and just reflect on your behavior in a personal versus work context. Because someone who intends to behave more value-oriented in the workplace often does so already in a personal context. And there's this discrepancy in behavior and also feeling in the workplace.
So, focus on what affects my authenticity, and how can I work on it and how can I bring these two personalities closer together, and ideally in one place, I think, is very important. Then one last question on the values, Terry. What's the reward for a company and individually, if there's an improvement in values behavior and value adherence?

I definitely believe that when there's an improvement in the values and the value adherence, the performance of the company goes up overall. We all bring our best to work. We're able to unlock more possibilities. So as a company, the company benefits is more successful.

I think it really comes down a lot to personal wellbeing on the individual level that is positively affected by value-oriented behavior and once you establish that and you multiply it ultimately and definitely leads to better performance for the company because everyone is more in sync with him or herself and therefore also better performing. So, this brings us to the close of the conversation.
Thank you for listening. And it's been a great conversation about values and moments of truth. And now I'd say let's walk the talk.
Thank you.

Thank you.

This transcript has been edited for clarity.