What Have Core Values Got To Do With Business?
We’re all familiar with the phrase ‘one bad apple spoils the barrel.’ The old idiom is often applied to political organisations and large corporations, but it may be applied to SMEs too. Essentially the phrase refers to negative habitual behaviour that can permeate throughout a group. Mike Gaffney explains why establishing a set of positive core values is vital for developing the right kind of company culture; the kind that both employees and customers can respect. And ultimately the kind that will decide your company’s destiny.
Mike, why are core company values so important?
Managers and business owners tend to focus on things like numbers, and performance this year compared to last year, and how to squeeze more out of the team we have. They often fail to recognise that people are not motivated by the owner’s increased profit or turnover. However, they are motivated by being part of a team where they are valued and respected, and where there are shared company values that they can align themselves with.
In a military context, the use of mantras and expressing values has been used for a long time. For example the motto by the SAS ‘Who Dares Wins’ expresses the type of mind set that they are famous for. So a company’s core value set can reflect who and what they are. We find that some organisations totally ignore, or underestimate, the power of values in changing behaviours to improve individual and collective performance.
How do you define values in an organisational context?
Values are the set of beliefs that guide our conduct individually and collectively within the organisation. For example, at LEAP our core values are:
Collaboration – we believe in collaborating with our clients to ensure the best solution for them
Rigour – we believe in applying rigour to everything we do
Authenticity – we are genuine in our approach
Impact – there’s no point in being great at what we do if it’s having no impact on the company
Creativity – we believe in providing creative tailored solutions for our clients
We hold ourselves to account with those 5 values. It’s a simple, straightforward way to see if we are keeping ourselves on track regarding the standard of performance and behaviour we expect from ourselves, and crucially, how that translates into our behaviour with clients.
Your Company’s Destiny
It’s also important to remember that in business your customers will ask 3 questions of you, and the value set that you define for your team need to reflect those questions. The questions are:
1. Do you have high standards?
2. Can I trust you?
3. Do you care about me, the client?
If the value set that your people live by reflect and answer those questions then your company is on the right track. The main point for Irish businesses is that traditionally in Irish culture, and society, we have a good value set. However we don’t articulate them clearly enough, or reinforce them in the daily activities of the team. In the absence of those explicit values we create a vacuum where different habits creep in; habits that are not in line with our core company values and how we want our teams to behave.
Practicing Core Values, Not Just Preaching Them
So developing teams that believe in, and practice, the core values of the company creates a real sense of ownership and belonging to the company. Ultimately that leads to more successful business performance.
As Ghandi once said:
your beliefs become your thoughts,
your thoughts become your words,
your words become your actions,
your actions become your habits,
your habits become your values ,
your values become your destiny.