Following my initial year as IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) president and CEO, I intended to move the organization to the next level by creating more sustainable value outside of what’s defined as “economic” or “monetary” value. I recognized that we focused on what we do on a daily basis; that’s the easy part. It was time to place more focus on how we do it.
Here at IMA, we promote ethical behavior through daily actions—not hollow words—and thus the mantra of “creating value through values” was formed. I recently contributed a chapter on this subject to the book Trust Inc.: Strategies for Building Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset. In this post, I’ll summarize the key takeaway: creating a value statement is only the beginning. Leaders must have an internal strategy for ethical leadership and accountability in order to increase business value and overall performance.
Making Values Your Anchor
As the world’s leading management accounting association, IMA raises the bar with how we serve our members, volunteers, staff, as well as regulators and other external stakeholders. Our organization was going global after my first year as president and CEO. This meant that IMA’s values and culture would go far beyond our U.S. headquarters, reaching our growing markets in China, the Middle East, and Europe. Our values would attempt to cross various cultural norms and, while nothing is ever perfect, it’s critical to make the substantial effort in initiating foundational principles of how we do business.
Ethical Leadership Starts from the Top
It’s disheartening to reflect upon the many public scandals that have negatively impacted the reputation and perception of corporate leaders and the accounting and finance profession. This particular issue was the reason I decided not to outsource the process but draft IMA’s initial Core Values statement myself. If exemplary behavior and ethical leadership is required and expected to start from the top, then the genuineness and authenticity of the values become evident through the whole organization.
But in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni advises that people have to weigh-in before they buy-in. So I took my initial draft and invited input from different levels of the organization for two months. This process involved personal feedback from my leadership team, then from a confidential comment period with the entire global staff.
IMA’s Global Core Values
The final draft of IMA’s Global Core Values reflects the ideal values of the organization as a whole and the inner strength of trust, ensuring its survivability beyond the current management. The following five Global Core Values can be read separately but are mutually dependent, reminiscent of the relationship between the IMA organization and its members.
- Respect for the Individual
- Passion for Serving Members
- Highest Standards of Integrity and Trust
- Innovation and Continuous Improvement
- Teaming to Achieve
These five Core Values and their in-depth descriptions are framed, distributed, adopted, and hung all over our headquarters and in volunteer leaders’ hallways and offices. It serves as a symbol of unity and trust. While it may be easy to talk about Core Values, enforcing these behaviors in action is the next step in generating value for the organization.
Organizations must create ways to recognize and hold individuals accountable for their behavior. For example, IMA has incorporated the Global Core Values in our staff performance reviews and volunteer selection and recognition processes. They also serve as a guide as we evaluate and pursue strategic partnerships with other organizations.
The Good Guys Can Win
The results of enacting Global Core Values show our dedication to the qualitative investment in our human capital and growth. In time, we’ve seen high employee and volunteer retention, promotions of exemplary leaders, an increase in continued education and certification, new partnerships with like-minded organizations, and a visible self-regulating culture. These successful signs reveal that Global Core Values have transitioned from symbolic to being “real.” It’s our proactive approach to promote the old saying, “the good guys can win” in the end.
Written by Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE
Follow me on Twitter @ima_JeffThomson
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