Congruence means alignment or harmony. It means things line up and work together like gears whose teeth perfectly mesh. And although this critical alignment is necessary for many things to work properly, nowhere is it more necessary than for a person to act in congruence to their values. In other words, to be trusted and believed in, people must act in such a way where there is no gap between what they say they do and what they actually do.
This principle is also true for organizations if they want to get maximum results. The problem is that most organizations do not pay enough attention to it and thus never reach their greatest potential. They simply continue saying one thing and doing another. They fail to realize that in business as in personal life, what we say and do must be aligned so that there is no gap.
To reach this level of congruence requires a review of all channels of communication, and by “all channels” we mean moving beyond the messengers of words and rhetoric to the messengers of behaviors and symbols. These messengers define the real character of an organization. For example, there are negative messengers like:
- Bureaucratic policies that serve the company rather than the customer
- Top managers who get perks while line-level employees get none
- CEOs who get bonuses when no one else does
- Better benefits for managers than line-level employees
- Sales people who promise anything to make a sale
When these negative messengers get coupled to rhetoric that has a different message, it diminishes the perceived integrity of the organization. This diminished perception of integrity influences the level of trust extended by employees and customers. Low levels of trust cause employees to get disengaged which results in poor customer service and low productivity. In addition, customers become less and less willing to extend trust resulting in lower levels of loyalty and lower revenues. When you consider the higher cost of low productivity and lower revenues due to customer turnover, it all results in lower profitability.
On the other hand, there are messengers that are positive like:
- Flexible policies in favor of the customer
- Bonuses that are shared throughout the organization
- Perks that are performance based and available to all employees
- Benefits that are the same for all employees
- Sales people who treat sales as a service and practice ethical standards
Positive messengers that “walk the talk” of your corporate rhetoric demonstrate congruence. Demonstrated congruence drives trust and trust drives employee engagement as well as customer loyalty. Engagement generates productivity and customer loyalty generates revenue. With productivity up, costs go down. Low cost coupled with increased revenue equals higher profitability.
Simply put, all of your messages must match your rhetoric or there will be confusion and suspicion. When your messages are congruent with your stated values, you promote clarity and build trust…and make longer-term profit as well.