The Value of Values

Paul Heagen Purposeful Leadership & Living Leave a Comment

We are heading into the holiday season, so we know that begins the advertising parade of:

Retailers proudly announcing they will not be open on Thanksgiving. We’re bucking the tide of commercialization of the holidays because we’re all about family as one of our values. We’re not even opening on Friday morning until at least the dew has been warmed by the sun.

The end is admirable, but the homage to family time, for some, feels a bit suspect.

For some companies, they mean it — and have for a long time. However, the wailing about the invasion of the shopping imperative into one of the last bastions of family refuge has been growing over the last few years – to the point where doubtless some retailers simply recognized the chance to catch that wave and be “rewarded” with greater customer loyalty.

We can applaud the outcome, but if these values were so deep-seated and inherent, what took them so long to come to this decision?

Values are not for rent; they need to be owned.

I have seen companies where their values are nowhere to be seen on a wall plaque yet there is a profound sense of values that pervades the organization. It is as natural a pulse as a heartbeat, a rhythm as natural as breathing. I’ve seen other companies that have their values statements plastered on every solid surface and yet the culture is rife with violations or willful indifference at all levels.

Values start at the top. They are lived out at the top. They are shaped, defined and tested by action, not words.

Is there a way to test the authenticity and durability of values? Here are some questions I find often get to the answer:

1. Who is recognized as living out the values more than anyone else? Hopefully, many of the answers are that it is the owner or CEO.

2. Can people name the values without referring to their pocket card or sneaking a glance at the wall plaque?

3. When were the values severely tested? Did they come through that trial stronger or weaker?

4. Can people see the values informing and underpinning the key decisions of the business, particularly when it comes to employees and customers?

5. Are your values the same as every else’s or have you put in the work to make them relevant and distinct to your business and culture?

6. Do you make decisions with the intent to affirm values, even if they are costly to the business in the short-run?

Values, and its cousin Purpose, are key factors today in attracting and retaining talent. They are the glue and the fuel of an organization as much as its vision.

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