The Value of Values

Our mid-January blog was all about the mission and vision of our business. While both of these elements contribute to giving everyone involved in and with our company a clear and shared picture of purpose and direction, they are not complete without a set of clear values.

What are company values?

If mission is the why behind our existence and vision is our desired destination, our company values are our moral compass – the lamp posts and guardrails, if you may – that show us the right path and steps we should take to get where we want to go and what makes us different than our competition. Our corporate values support the company’s vision and shape our culture.

Beyond value labels

Taking time to identify what we want our company’s values to be is the first step. But values need to be more than just a label, such as integrity or decisiveness. They need to be defined in terms of the specific behaviors that are expected and which demonstrate whether a leader, manager or employee embody that value on the basis of their behaviors. Having these behavioral definitions of each of our company values then allows us to embed and integrate these ‘standards’ into every aspect of our business, including our HR policies and processes – from hiring to performance management to firing.

The importance of clear values

Well-defined and continuously reinforced company values influence employees, future hires, as well as the company’s relationships with customers, stakeholders, and business partners. Having clarity around our vision, mission, and values makes our individual and collective communications, interactions and decision making easier simply by prompting us to always ask three key questions:

  • Is this action or decision aligned with why we are in business?
  • Is this action or decision moving us in the direction we want to take our business?
  • Is this action or decision reflecting our core values?

If we are not able to answer each of those questions in the affirmative, we best reconsider whether that action or decision is moving our business forward in the desired direction.

Takeaway

A company’s values highlight the core principles that guide decision-making, establish standards against which staff actions are evaluated and ultimately shape the culture of the organization.  These values represent the moral compass we need to follow in pursuit of our company’s mission and vision. If defined well and actively practiced in our daily work, our values help boost employee engagement, productivity, motivation, efficiency, and engagement with our partners and customers in an authentic way.

If we don’t define, carefully attend to, and regularly reinforce the values of our business, they will evolve on their own, and potentially in a way that hurts our business rather than helps it. As Patrick M. Lencioni put it in his Harvard Business Review article, “Empty values statements create cynical and dispirited employees, alienate customers, and undermine managerial credibility. … coming up with strong values—and sticking to them—requires real guts.”

If you want to have a conversation about how to identify the values that matter the most to your business and how to bring them to life for your employees, reach out to connect with one of our expert staff.