Why values are so important for Business

In my 15 years of being a coach and mentor I have published a couple of Meaningful Moments articles on values but not from a business perspective. Previously the articles, have been about an individual’s values. What is the difference I wonder?

Values, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, are “principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgement about what is important in life”. Values for businesses could be described as follows:

  • The things that are important to us and the company; the foundation of our lives/business
  • Deeply held principles that guide our choices and behaviours and influence our emotions
  • The core of who we are and what the business should be
  • Our motivators, our drivers, the things that make us and the business tick, the passion in our hearts and the reason why we do the things we do
  • A moral compass, guiding how we live our lives and operate our business

Many smaller businesses don’t consider values at all and when they are small, probably don’t need to because they abide by the values of the owner or principal. It is when companies start to grow and bring in employees who are not family or connections of friends, that businesses start to go out of control. This is due partly to not having values and often because the responsibilities for each individual haven’t been defined and there is insufficient structure. But let’s stick with values today.

A lot of larger businesses often pay lip service to their values. They might have some bright slogans with acronyms chosen more for marketing purposes rather than deep seated values which everybody should abide by. It is even worse when Directors or key managers don’t abide by the company’s values. If this happens, it is impossible to realise the true potential of values, which is to engage staff, customers and suppliers in an emotional way that touches on their own core motivations. In the UK, 90% of top companies have a clear statement of values and expected behaviours, but research suggests that few, if any, track or report on how they live up to them. Integrity is the most cited value, followed by passion.

Bill George, former Chairman and CEO of Medtronic and now a lecturer at Harvard cautions that “you do not know what your true values are until they are tested under pressure. It is relatively easy to list your values and to live by them when things are going well. It is under pressure – when a company’s success, your career, or your life hangs in the balance – that your company and you must decide and act on what your values are.

The closer we live our lives in line with our own individual core values, the more positive emotion we feel, such as happiness, fulfilment, satisfaction and calmness. Equally, the further we live our lives from our core values, the more negative emotions we feel, such as sadness, frustration, anger and intense unhappiness. This is the same for employees. if companies have strong values which the employees agree with and abide by them, companies have a clear sense of purpose and know what they are aiming for. If companies are rudderless then so will the employees be. If a company clearly states their values and doesn’t abide by them, employees see this very quickly and become disenfranchised with their company.”

As you can probably tell, I am very keen on company’s values. After being an MD some years ago and more recently as a mentor, I have supported companies with a process of how they can assess what their values should be and how to embed these into their culture. To get it right it is quite a slow process but worth it when you have your colleagues letting other colleagues know that they are not abiding by the values of the company.

As companies have more employees working from home on either a permanent basis or a blended approach, culture will become even more important. Culture is normally built on a vision, clear values and knowing what the company is aiming for. If I can be of help building your company’s culture, including values, please make contact neil@nvwsolutions.co.uk

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