What value are values?

I was working with a long standing client today and we had to make some decisions that were both commercially and morally challenging.  They had to decide where they were going to draw up the boundaries on what behaviours they accepted from their staff.  There were two or three related issues that were very definitely ‘grey’ areas.  Where did one draw the line?  How much weight did one give expediency, commercial profit, reputation???

I said to them “Before we begin, lets revisit the company values we drew up a few years ago and check that you still feel they are right for your business, because if they aren’t we should change them, and if they are, we should apply them to this situation.”  I was told that they not only still thought they were right but they regularly tested their actions against them.  It was so refreshing to hear of a company that actively tried to live its values.  I can’t say that I come across it very often.

We then used these values to help us make some tough decisions, but it was a much quicker and easier conversation than it might have been.  It was a great example of their value if correctly applied.

There was a tension been two of the values of Commercial & Professional behaviour but that is fine.  Their job was to decide how to balance these in the best possible way, but our decision today has helped give life to the third value of Transparency and makes it much easier for the staff to know what is okay and what isn’t.

Do make explicit use of use of values in your business and if so, how have they helped you?

“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”   John Fitzgerald Kennedy

“A new way of thinking has become the necessary condition for responsible living and acting. If we maintain obsolete values and beliefs, a fragmented consciousness and self-centred spirit, we will continue to hold onto outdated goals and behaviours.”    Dalai Lama

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3 Responses to “What value are values?”

  1. Liz says:

    Hi Richard,

    Thank you for posting yet another interesting blog.

    I recently read a very inspiring account “Lead from the Front” by Hani Law – http://www.ecademy.com/node.php?id=122414 , in which she placed her personal values before the company’s need for profits and placing materials before human safety. In her account, she spoke up bravely on behalf of her colleaugues in China, who may have been exposed to a lot of danger, during the Tiannmen square incidents of 1989. She was worried for the safety of her colleagues and the company appeared more concerned with getting their goods out of China. I think that sometimes, all it takes is someone who is willing to put themselves out for others and vocally defend their value system. Hopefully, reminding the companies of why they went into business in the first place.

    I feel that my values define how I relate to everything whether it’s personally or in business. It’s quite important to have some explicit values such as fairness and clients respecting each other in my studio and recognising that it is a place of harmony and peace.So everyone is entitled to come there and feel safe. If I am unclear about this, I could possibly be setting myself up for some challenges ahead.So my promise to my clients is very explicit as a result.

    There have been instances in the past in other companies, where I had seen confrontations that got so out of hand, due to an obvious lack of a value system or perhaps it was ignored and people got hurt and offended due to this.

    Kind regards and many blessings



  2. Thank you for this Liz. I think you raise some very interesting points about what happens when values collide.

    I also accept Bruce’s point that people will follow their leaders behaviour rather than just their words.

    Have you actually got your values written down somewhere??

  3. […] blogged the other day about the importance of values in corporate decision making.  Our values as individuals have a […]

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