Do corporate values make a difference?

| 3 February 2023

I am somewhat cynical about the industry that exists around corporate values. (There, I said it!). Not because corporate values are not good things to have – in theory they are very good things to have. But so often they are words created to sound good, written by the executive team, a ‘project group’ or a bunch of consultants who then think ‘job done’, box ticked.

And everyone else thinks ‘flavour of the month’; ‘why are we being told how to behave?’, ‘I’d love to see the senior leadership team live those values rather than just preaching them to us,’ ‘surely integrity should be a given’ and so on.

Are your corporate values lived and breathed?

‘Oh, we did something on values a while back’ said one of my coaching clients who works in publishing recently. ‘It was really interesting.’

‘What’s changed or got better since then?’ I asked.

‘Er… not much’ was her response.

A classic case of words speaking louder than actions rather than the other way around.

I also believe that some values although well intentioned can be unhelpful.

Years ago, I worked with a leader who wanted everyone to be ‘happy.’ He shut down any conversation whatsoever that wasn’t about ‘happy.’ People felt closed down by the toxic positivity and avoidance of difficult issues or challenging situations. And definitely not happy about it.

Another small business I worked with created some values for themselves and wanted to test them out on a daily basis for three months. Turns out some of those values were unrealistic. I loved the ‘realness of that exercise and the honesty involved in creating values they could truly live by.

When corporate values are confusing and ambiguous

‘How can I tell that person she’s not pulling her weight when we have the values of ‘respect and caring?’ (Interpretation of value: ‘Don’t say anything that’s ‘not nice.’)

Or: ‘I’m annoyed with her behaviour, but I can’t say anything because we have a value of mutual respect.’ (Interpretation of value: ‘Put up and shut up rather than give honest feedback’).

Well, the big problem here is these words are not corporate values. They are way too vague.

One of the best ways to approach values is to make them ‘things I/we can actually do’. Watch Simon Sinek on this topic.

Simon Sinek – Values are Verbs – How should a company share its values – YouTube

P.S. I’m opening up my next Lead with Confidence programme very soon.

It will be a small group, (maximum 7 people) so you get the dual benefits of my focused attention plus be a part of a hand-selected group of fellow leaders who are all ready to grow together (a rising tide lifts all boats!)

If you want to get on the priority notification list to get the details please hit REPLY with the word Priority and you’ll be first to hear when the doors are open.