Back To Basics: Find Common Core Values

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In this age of corporate financial scandals and a renewed focus on ethics and governance, the advice of Polonius still holds true: “this above all: to thine own self be true”, he counseled in Hamlet, written hundreds of years ago.

If he were speaking around a boardroom table today, he might have rephrased it so say, “Be yourself. If you’re not being yourself, who are you being?”

With business morality under scrutiny as never before, being authentic has become the new watchword. Sometimes who we are gets lost as we try to please corporate bosses, spouses, family and friends.

We need to go back to our values.

Values are who we are.

They’re intangibles.

They are not something we can hold in our hand, yet they define us in every part of our lives.

They are our internal compasses.

Numerous studies have shown that the single biggest predictor of employee burnout is a poor-quality relationship between an employee and the immediate superior. I would argue the quality of the relationship is much improved where values are shared.

Think back to a time when things just weren’t right at work. You couldn’t articulate what the problem was, but you knew there was one. Chances are that you were not honoring a key value and it made you very uncomfortable.

Consider the case of a vice-president of Human Resources at a large financial institution.

The Business Head hired her and they thought alike on issues. There was mutual trust and respect.

They had connected on a professional and personal level because their values fit. They believed in treating people with integrity and honesty. The partnership prospered.

When a new boss was appointed it all changed. He used integrity as it suited his purposes. The stress of reporting to someone whose values were at odds to hers resulted in a choice to move to another division.

How do we know what these values are?

Many companies post their values in their offices, but unfortunately they don’t live by them. If senior management doesn’t set the example then they don’t mean anything. Truly successful companies live by their values and they are part of the culture. You can’t change values you have to hire for them.

It’s like building a house and the values are the foundation for everything else built on top.

Here’s how to create the infrastructure:

• Define your corporate values and navigate by them
• Select employees for values as well as skills and knowledge
• Play to their strengths with opportunities and positive feedback
• Provide training and coaching for development and growth
• Your key players will stay so make room for them in the succession plan

If you’re not following this order then you’re adding a second floor to a house with no foundation.

What will it cost your business in dollars and people?

Defining your values

Not sure what your values are?

Here are some ways to uncover them:
1. Identify your peak moments in life. When it was special or rewarding? Be specific. What was happening? Do this for a number of peak moments and look for trends.
2. Start at the opposite end and think about what makes you really angry and why? This is the mirror image of a value. For example, if lateness makes you crazy, the value that you’ve identified might be orderliness.
3. Look at what you can’t do without in your life. Is it creativity, challenge, harmony?
4. Ask people close to you what they see?

Some value descriptors:
• Integrity
• Doing the right thing
• Adventure
• Challenge
• Creativity
• Learning
• Partnership
• Harmony

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