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So you think you know your values?

Let’s be honest, we’ve all had a rather bizarre year, haven’t we? Back in January - which seems a very long time ago now - no one would have believed what was about to happen. But here we are.

Despite a whole heap of challenges and changes over the last nine months, 2020 has actually presented us with a unique opportunity to grow, develop and redefine WHO we are.

Now, that WHO is pretty important. As a business, your core values are a central part of who you are. Not only do they determine your priorities as an organisation, they can set you apart from your competition, shape your company culture and define standards of behaviour - what we deem to be right and wrong.

If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything - and there are a good few lessons to be learned - it’s to appreciate our highest values. No, they’re not just corporate buzzwords hung on the office wall.

Look at your work values and ask yourself: do they challenge me? Do they even make me feel a little uncomfortable? How many times have you spotted values such as ‘professionalism’ or ‘integrity’...as if you’d employ someone who wasn't professional or had zero integrity. These values are just permission-to-play.

In an attempt to offer some clarity on this, let’s look at the four key categories for values...

  • Core Values - Values that are inherent within the business. They are deeply ingrained principles that guide all of a company’s actions. They don’t change over time, and they differentiate an organisation from its competitors.
  • Aspirational Values - Behaviours an organisation wishes it could have and is aspiring to adopt to maximise success, but doesn’t consistently exhibit.
  • Permission-to-Play Values - The lowest common denominator behaviours that are required by the organisation, and don’t differentiate the business from competitors. Often such generic qualities as honesty or hard work most appropriately fall in this category.
  • Accidental Values - Characteristics that become ingrained into an organisation by accident and don’t necessarily help achieve the mission and goals of the entity.

For businesses, a lack of clear values can lead to behaviours that aren’t aligned with what is required to achieve its vision - and some very confused employees.

On the flip-side, when an organisation’s values are well-understood, well-defined and (here’s the biggie) well-communicated, they can enhance team cohesion, help a business to attract and retain top talent, attract customers who share the same values, improve both internal and external comms, inspire employees to make the best decisions...the list goes on!

In order to embed new, healthy behaviours, it’s essential to bring your values to the surface and examine them, the reason behind them and the impact they are having on your workforce.

This, right now, is an opportunity to do just that; it’s the time to learn and implement any aspirational values you may have. To address any accidental values that have unintentionally emerged, such as laziness or the inability to switch off from work. To re-think those boring, generic permission-to-play values that don’t match up with who you really are. Yes, yes, you have honesty - who doesn’t? - but what you need is authentic, deeply-rooted values that matter.

Values should be a reflection of reality. They should live and breathe through your people. They should be reflected in everything you do. They should be unique. And they should be shared throughout an organisation from the very top; the bosses, the bigwigs, the top dogs.

Are your own values a reflection of reality, or simply a cosmetic window dressing?

Our challenge to you is to reassess your values, face those truths and refocus on what matters to you, your people and your business.

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Are your own values a reflection of reality, or simply a cosmetic window dressing?