When I enter a business and see its corporate values displayed prominently on a wall, my first reaction is a pause, followed by a burning question to myself. “Are the people in this business living these values, or is this for a follow-fashion display only?” More often than not, this is a rhetorical question, since the answer is usually, “no” to living the values, it’s just fashionable to have them displayed.
My reaction is fuelled by popular opinion within the consulting community, that many businesses display their values statements, but generally, do not bear out the wisdom of the declared aspirations in practice. Some of the more common values that I come across include trust, teamworking, mutual respect, communication, integrity and so on.
Shouldn’t trust, effective communication, respect, harmonious teamworking and integrity be perfected in all businesses?
These are “foundational or core values,” that are supposed to keep the business aligned around a common belief and behavioural system. They serve the same purpose as train tracks that keep the train from derailing. Whilst these values will always be good for anchoring the business, if they are not paired with strategies that convert them into “living” values that enliven the daily work experience of employees, they simply become sterile. No wonder employees walk past the display wall without pausing.
The irony is that often, I’m entering the business to conduct teambuilding or conflict-diffusing sessions that could have been minimized, had the business created and sustained strategies for living its foundational values.
Alongside these core values, augmented values that are unique to the business, should be the real superstars that resonate with the nature of the business.
This brings me to my next question. Why can’t the suite of values be augmented to reflect a more relevant reality of the business? Here’s what I mean. To me, core values are so fundamental to human interaction within the workings of a business culture, that the common ones that I cited earlier should be integral to all businesses. Shouldn’t trust, effective communication, respect, harmonious teamworking and integrity be perfected in all businesses? There’s nothing unique about these values, that’s why they are called “core” values. They should be found in all businesses.
Alongside these core values, augmented values that are unique to the business, should be the real superstars that resonate with the nature of the business. This would trigger a connection with employees, who can now see the relationship between the augmented values and the day-to-day workings of the business.
It is crucial to strategize around the core values, but it is equally critical to have “augmented or working values” that would be more thoughtful and relevant to the competitive landscape.
“Executional excellence” from Coborn’s grocery caught my attention. This value is easily connected to getting tasks, actions and activities completed at a high standard and high quality.
Let me share some augmented values that I’ve found act well as bridging points with core values for driving relevance in day-to-day business operations. Again, these are some values that have caught my attention over the years, because of how well they were crafted by their respective business leaders for ease of impact.
“Executional excellence” from Coborn’s grocery caught my attention. This value is easily connected to getting tasks, actions and activities completed at a high standard and high quality. “Perpetual relevance” (can’t recall the company), is another compelling value that can keep business leaders connected to competitive thinking. “A long-term view” is owned by Olympus and again, reflects the perspective to which the business is wedded. It’s saying that all decisions should be influenced by a deep look into the future.
“Perpetual relevance” (can’t recall the company), is another compelling value that can keep business leaders connected to competitive thinking.
“Solve problems together”…from Restaurant 365. Now what better way to grind this value into all aspect of teamworking on a daily basis? This is basically a signature element of a teamworking charter. Finally, another favourite is, “Grow by one percent every day” by ClickUp. This value drives both personal, as well as professional excellence. Any business that lives diligently by this value, will be placing itself in a fortuitous position to become a learning culture, populated by people who are lifelong learners.
Whilst these examples of augmented values are drivers and levers that can act as propellants for progress in any business, their greatest contribution is that they are not sterile, but are enablers of relevance. They enable businesses to retain dynamism on the inside, as well as to remain connected to the unique dynamics of the marketplace on the outside.
Part of the power behind these augmented values lies of course, in the fact that they are crafted almost like mantras or calls to action…… and, as we know, a call to action is often hard to ignore.