Who’s Values Are These?

“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”  Roy Disney

So, what’s the problem with corporate values? You know the ones hanging on the wall saying what “We believe in.” The common pattern is for the leaders to first consider and think about the spectrum of the tribe’s values, then seek their own personal values – if they do it at all. That’s backwards.

Most leaders will prefer to first ask the tribe to figure out how things work, before asking themselves whether it is valuable. Therefore, the organizational values get codified and put up on the wall before the executive figures out their own personal values. And, it’s important that you get this right. You select new hires based on your organization’s values. You appraise performance based largely on how well the employees are adhering to the corporate values. Your differential factor that makes your offering so special is tied to your company values. People get fired for violating a core organizational value, like honesty. So, we know values are important, the question is, “How to you create a set of core values for your company?” Is it “tribe first, then my values?” No, the better way to do this is to first know your own values, then communicate them out to your tribe.

“How are your personal values influenced by the organization?”

Let’s look at a non-example and an example of working with values. In the non-example, tribe first, the CEO takes the executive team off site for a two-day retreat to identify the core values of the organization. The group struggles with a long list of values, and tired and pressure prompted, they create a list of six values everyone can agree on. These may or may not be the real core values of the organization. In the positive example, the CEO goes on a retreat and clarifies her own core values. She identifies what she really cares about. She asks questions like, “Are we working on the right things? What’s the value in what we are doing? Why are we doing it?” In short, she is figuring out whether it is worth doing business the way its being done, before attempting to communicate these values to the tribe.

Why is it important to be clear about your own values first? Look at the values of your organization. Now think about what’s important to you. What you personally value and have strong feelings about. Do your organization’s values reflect your values too? The best run workplaces are those where the leader’s values and the workplace values are in sync, congruent, and aligned. And, you can spot the places where this is working. The people behave in accordance with their values. They say “respect” is important, and you see them listening to each other, asking if it’s OK to give some feedback before delivering it. You see their leaders smiling and responding to the server at the business luncheon. Values appear in your conduct, what you say and do every day.