And what you need to do as a business to make sure yours are sound.

Values operate as guardrails for doing what’s right, when it matters most. The right values, operate as a steward for how to handle situations or external events which have the potential to destroy a reputation and a business.  Values help us to take the right decisions during challenging times, helping us to navigate complexity and ambiguity by setting a framework for how we should operate.  Values go far beyond what is a legal requirement and help businesses to operate in ways which are morally sound, because it’s the right thing to do, for everyone.

Here are 3 ways you can check to see if your values are fit for purpose:

Test them out before you commit to them
In some contexts, certain words or phrases may carry different meaning to different audiences.  I’ve been party to lively discussions about the word “ambitious”.  This seems like a fairly innocuous word for a corporate value, but for some stakeholders, it took on a more bullish sentiment that just didn’t land with them. Your business values are part of your brand, and how customers resonate with you.  So chose them wisely!

Consider associated behaviours 
Consider the behaviours that will need to be visible that demonstrate the values are embedded.  For example, if you say one of your values is “transparency”, what does this actually mean in practice?  What does being transparent mean to your customers, your colleagues, your wider stakeholders? What do they see and feel when you are being transparent? Which things are you transparent about?  What level of openness and honesty are you really comfortable with, especially with sensitive information or if something goes wrong?  Should you be transparent about everything (very unlikely not!) and does being transparent mean you own up swiftly and take corrective or compensatory action when things go wrong?  What are the consequences of this?  And so what?  Why is being transparent important? Why does it matter? What does being transparent mean in setting your apart from your competitors?  If your key competitors also state transparency as a value, then what difference does it make to your customers that you are transparent?  Values should set you apart, but only if they are truly embedded in ways that customers and other stakeholders can see and feel when they do business with you.

Be ready to take swift action
Values are worthless if you don’t abide by them.  Too many companies state their values outwardly but don’t have a framework and protocols in place to manage them inwardly.  If a value is violated by a member of staff in a way that may damage your employee or customer experience, your reputation, or even your bottom line, what action will you take and are you prepared to take it? Taking action when a value has been infringed doesn’t have to be a negative experience.  Values should drive positive performance and the highest performing organisations achieve results by fostering a culture of learning and openness where mistakes are considered as opportunities to grow and improve and not to be punished and shamed.

Not sure where to start with your values?

Executive Coaching can be a really effective way of defining and testing out your business and your professional values.

You can get in contact with me here if you’d like to explore further:

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