Let’s talk values
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How sincere can you be on a mouse mat?
For many organisations, bringing alive their values is a challenge unmet. Often senior management espouse the values, don’t practise them, but expect them of others. However when values are in the strategic plan or on the back of business cards, expectations are raised that these values will be demonstrated.
And when they are not, cynicism abounds and we all look at ‘what really happens around here’….
To compound this, most corporate values are not values at all. They are usually chosen by the board from a list of management-speak, business-friendly words or to suit current business trends and are not based on any actual, authentic, moral or ethical convictions that live within the organisation itself.
Take a look, for instance, at this list of corporate values: Communication. Respect. Integrity. Excellence. They sound pretty good, don’t they? Strong, concise, meaningful. Maybe they even resemble your own company’s values, the ones you spent so much time writing, debating, and revising. Well these are the corporate values of Enron, as stated in the company’s 2000 annual report. And as history tells us, they’re not meaningful; they’re meaningless.
The empathy mug.
In many cases, ‘Our corporate values’ are generally selected as a means for internal comms and marketing to “get everyone on board” and have little relevance or resonance to the working life of either employees or the business, and usually make their appearance in daily life as a ‘Respect’ mouse mat or ‘Empathy’ mug.
These ‘Values initiatives’ usually have nothing to do with building consensus—they’re about imposing a set of fundamental beliefs on a broad and diverse group of people brought together, generally by nothing more than a need to earn money. Most executives understand the danger of consensus-driven decision-making when it comes to strategy, finance, and other business issues, yet they seem oblivious to the problem when it comes to developing values.
Why we love what we do.
At their best, an organisation’s values and beliefs guide the decisions they need to make in their corporate life. And it is a critical role of the senior management team to ensure that these values are aligned, authentic and consistent, rather than mixed and contradictory.
And a workforce that feels aligned with a company’s values is one of the top reasons they love where they work, and the primary reason that consumers feel they have a relationship with their brands.
They are, or should be, the non-negotiable ‘rules of behaviour’ that everyone can understand, agree with (or at lease appreciate the value of) and then implement in their daily working lives. And because they are expressions of its personality they play a key role in keeping a company together, giving it resilience and distinction and determining its attractiveness to employees and customers alike.