The tone from the top on values: how this CEO keeps it real for employees

Anyone who has worked hard to bring their organisation’s values to life knows that leading by example is the most powerful engagement tool of all.


Chief Executive Ian Silk, at our client AustralianSuper, personifies this perfectly. In a recently published Australian Financial Review article, Ian shared insights into his passion for the values at AustralianSuper, which he views as a critical part of their success.


In the interview, Silk shared his horror after reading The Smartest Guys in the Room, (the account of Enron’s collapse) and how AustralianSuper’s values were almost identical to Enron’s. He knew that the difference between success and failure was not just in SAYING that the organisation valued the values, but in actually SHOWING that the organisation truly valued them; and an organisation shows this by hiring, rewarding, promoting and, (when needed), firing in line with the values.


On his preparedness to fire employees who behave in contradiction to the values:


“We don’t accept good performance and bad behaviour … it is the hardest decision to make, but you have to do it if you want to have a good culture.”


On recruiting to fit the values:


“We ask ‘Are they an AustralianSuper kind of person? … Are they a team player and do they have a moral compass?’ … We don’t always get it right. We make calls as early as we can. We say: ‘You have very good skills and will succeed in your chosen profession, but not here.’”


We’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Ian’s P&C team at AustralianSuper in helping to keep the passion behind the values alive. The values have been there for a long time, but over the last few months we have worked with the team on helping to define the behaviours that sit behind them. This work will continue over the coming months to really help drive further engagement with the values by purposefully embedding them in the employee experience.


How do you keep the values alive in your organisation?