Defining Values


“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.”

Roy.E Disney

Last Friday we got the team together for our summer BBQ. We are not all based in the office, so it is fabulous to get almost the whole team together, relax, drink and even dance. We did talk about some work stuff in the morning but even that I found enjoyable as we were outside the work environment which meant we were talking without the constant pressures and noise of the office. We went through the progress we have made against our strategy which was considerable, and it was so undeniably clear to see the integral contribution every single individual had made towards delivering it.

We then talked about defining our values. I found the conversation really interesting as we didn’t even get to the part where we were choosing what our values should be, what words we should use. There was clear feeling in the team that we want to know why we are doing something, who are defining our values for, for what purpose are we doing it, who will see it, how will we use them, how do we hold each other accountable to them.

As a small business our values and ethics are really important to us but they are perhaps seen as innate in us so the conversation was all about how we make sure they are genuine, authentic, lived as there was fear they could become contrived and as such undermine the very essence of what we have built so far. I have witnessed a number of business where they have done a great PR job on culture and values but because there is perhaps a gap between what they say and what they actually do – the ‘good’ sell done on the values had become counterproductive.

If our culture is our shared beliefs and values and if people’s beliefs are built through what they experience, then any gap between what we say and do, any misalignment of words over actions can very quickly erode trust. If you don’t hold to your values, what do you hold to?

Trust is key – there was a recent global Ipsos survey which showed only 30% of people thought that most people could be trusted. There was also a clear correlation between the level of trust and personal happiness. So we are starting from a cynical base but if you get trust right your people will be happy. In a further PWC survey from last year – called the complexity of trust – the top four factors that contributed to trust were – protecting people’s data and security, treating people well, ethical business practices, admitting mistakes. Protecting people’s data and security, treating people well, ethical business practices, admitting mistakes. All of those are doing something – it matter less what you say far more what you do – as well as being open about it when you inevitably get it wrong.

I’m interested to see where our values conversation goes, perhaps weirdly I am less interested in the actual words we end up choosing as I know they will be fine but I am more interested in how we agree to hold to hold each other to them – over and over, , how we call out when we have gone against them – without hesitation and consistently, every time – then defining our values becomes valuable.