Graham, February 8 2022

How to Evaluate your Values

I am a great believer in the value of a company being in touch with its values.  And I am greatly saddened when I see those values distilled into a mere list of words that are written on walls and published in websites.  And you know some of the words I'm talking about:  Communication, Respect, Integrity and Excellence are a few of the common ones (those 4 belonged to Enron by the way). The problem with a list of words that sound good is, well, it's just a list of words and people can become disconnected from them.

An organisation's true values can be seen and felt in the everyday behaviours of its people as they interact with each other and go about their work, and the way the organisation interacts with its suppliers, its customers, its community, the general environment, the world.  While a list of words might be nice, it's the process that the company goes through to generate those words that's important; consciously identifying and discussing the behaviours that you want to see and feel, whether they are good for business, or just good.

And so, on that point, we should consider another important element of a company's values:  beliefs.   Beliefs are reference points, anchors, pillars around which your behaviours form; they don't move, but they affect your behaviours.  To illustrate this, someone who 'believed' the world was flat wouldn't buy a round-the-world ticket - that would just make no sense as they would fall off the edge.   However, they may buy 2 return tickets to go to one edge and back and then explore in the other direction, or they may buy a ticket that took them round the circumference. Their behaviours are impacted by their belief; and a person having to behave in a way that is at odds with their beliefs is not a happy person.

In reality, you don't even need to write down your values, most people operate within learned cultural norms, but some aspects do need to be highlighted or emphasised.  Take a look around at how your people are behaving - what do you see that you like?  How do you let people know that is good and you want to see more of that?  How do you let people know when you see behaviours that you don't want to see?  Letting those things slip by is another behaviour to consider!  Do you and your fellow managers 'lead by good example'?  Are there any behaviours that are missing?  

The behaviours and beliefs that are your lived values are a central element of your culture, and culture is constantly created by people being, working, and solving problems together.  If your organisation's behaviours aren't to your liking, it's time to lead your people to where you need them to be.  And writing words on a piece of paper won’t be enough.

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