Many organisations list core values on their website, but often that is the last we hear of them. Four business owners share their perspectives on why values matter more than we can imagine.
Why do values matter?
Small business owners, Helen, Sam, Richard and Paul share their experience and expertise to answer your question – why do values matter?
Helen is the owner of UnlikelyGenius, freelance business coach and author of Falling Off the Ladder. She believes values are fundamental to having a business that aligns with you, your goals and the right clients.
There’s a lot of talk of values in the business community and most companies will have some form of values charter, mission statement or ethos that will give you an idea of their principles.
Not every company that has defined values actually lives by them. There are many reasons why this may be the case, one is a lack of understanding as to why they are important or what they can do for the business.
But values do matter.
They are the (often unspoken) beliefs and principles that guide your work, behaviour and interactions.
They are the values that complement your mission and ethics.
They are what give you purpose and clarity.
They underpin and guide your business.
They help you to make business decisions.
They guide your staff as to expectations of them and their work (yes, even if you’re a business of one).
When there are many others out there who do what you do, communicating your values can help you stand out and make you more relatable. It will make tasks like pitching and deciding your boundaries so much easier. Help you decide whether to say yes or no to that new project. To find your niche. To hone your message.
Plus, they give your brand personality. They help clients to connect with you and your message. They can help guide your reputation (when used properly).
The starting point for creating my business values lay in my previous experiences in employment. I left employment with a strong sense of what I thought was right and wrong for me and my future clients.
I had a clear view of how I thought people should be treated and the way to get the best work out of me.
I had a good idea of the type of projects that are the best fit for me.
There were causes I cared about but I didn’t get to pursue work in.
Most of all, I knew there was a way I needed to work to achieve happiness and calm.
And so, my values were born.
It is vital to keep reflecting and adapting your values as both you and your business grow. As you get clarity. As you create new goals.
Don’t use them purely as lip service to jump on the latest hot topic, or choose a value because you think you ‘should’.
You need to believe in them. Live and breathe them. Present them daily in everything you do.
To reflect on them regularly and adapt them as both you and your business grow, as you get clarity, as you create new goals.
Sam is the founder of Everyday People. She’s passionate about helping values-driven people and organisations make a bigger difference.
Values are responsible for our actions
We value what is important to us.
The places we shop, the people we admire, how we spend our time reflect what is important to us.
Consciously or subconsciously, our values are responsible for all our actions.
Many people don’t know what their values are because they haven’t reflected on what is important to them.
They fuel our feelings
Have you ever noticed an increase in energy when you have a conversation with somebody who shares your values? It’s easier to connect with somebody who cares about the same things you do.
You may also find that your emotions change when you spend time with others who have opposing values. For example, if you see somebody being unkind, you may feel disheartened or angry.
They help you understand yourself and others
Taking the time to identify your values will help you understand why you do the things you do.
Knowing what a person truly values helps us to understand their motivations, how they will act and how they perceive the world.
Similarly, we can identify a person or organisation’s values by their actions and behaviours.
They are responsible for making the world a better place
As we experience life, what is important to us changes. It’s important we feel safe, valued, and loved. When these needs are met, we then start to express and share our unique qualities.
We may start to become more conscious of how we can use our life experiences and qualities to make a difference to others.
At this point, our values are no longer simply responsible for our actions, but they start to drive us.
Millennials think values matter – a lot
The 2020 Delloite Millennial Survey revealed that these younger generations want to work for companies with a purpose beyond profit—companies that share their values—and that they feel more empowered to make a difference as part of organisations.
According to a LinkedIn workplace culture report, 86% of millennials (people born 1981 – 1996) would take a pay cut to work at a company that holds the same values as their own.
Paul is the director of Lillywhite Consultancy whose purpose is to provide expertise and knowledge to their clients to help recruit, retain and develop their people and have some fun along the way.
What are they?
‘Values’ can be defined as the deep-seated needs that serve as standards for judging one’s own behaviour as well as the behaviour of others. They form the basis for how people assign worth to situations and objects.
Values shape our value systems and have a cognitive as well as an affective component. They play a major role in understanding personal motivation and give us a compass to steer our passage through life.
Why should companies be interested in values?
For the individual:
- They are the deep-seated roots of who we are and why we do what we do.
- We use them to make judgements on ourselves and others.
- They drive perception, attitude and externalised behaviour.
- They provide the fuel for our physical and intellectual energy.
- They influence relationships.
- They influence what we buy and who we buy from.
- They influence who we trust.
- They influence our levels of commitment and work ethic.
- They influence our, needs, ambitions and expectations.
- They influence our standards and rules.
For the business:
Values that are fully integrated into the culture of an organisation can provide powerful insights into employee motivation. This insight becomes the compass that the organisation uses to select staff members, reward and recognise employee performance, and guide interaction among employees and customers.
Our values drive our intrinsic motivators and help us to manage the person and their expectations and ambitions. This creates engagement and an ethos of collaboration, accountability and develops transparent communication without fear.
Values become aligned with performance. People become involved with their own personal development and the contribution they make. Value congruence improves the retention of the talented people in your organisation- keeps them out of the hands of our competitors and attracts more like them.
Values, therefore, are a major factor in motivation.
To work effectively, they must be embedded and interwoven into everything we do.
Richard is the Director of Developing Business Excellence Limited™. He is a certified Executive Coach and Mentor, who helps others identify their values. His own values are, respect for others, integrity, humility, authentic leadership, and sense of humour.
How many of us have ever taken the time to ask ourselves “what matters most in life”? I’d certainly not done so until I was in my forties, when a combination of academic, professional, and personal events forced a rethink. At the time, I was working in the Public Sector and my ‘values’ were dictated by my organisation, as so many people still are. Being invited to outline my own values was akin to being asked to cross-dress!
To truly understand one’s values, I would suggest that there is a need to identify the key drivers of our aspirations and intentions. “They are the source of all human motivations and decision-making” *(Barrett, 2018 Everything I learned about values), and for many of us are our ‘handrail’ for navigating the challenges of modern-day life.
I’ve undertaken multiple Personality Assessments during my life, not all of which are particularly well constructed, and I’d advise caution when analysing the results. One free resource is provided by the Barrett Values Centre and enables respondents to identify their top ten values.
Not all of us are ever either truly aware of or wish to share our values, possibly because we seldom reflect on what’s important to us and wish to avoid being harshly judged by others. For example, if one were to admit that they were motivated by power, money and authority, that might help justify our motivation for professional advancement, but might not bring enduring happiness, contentment or satisfaction.
In my opinion, our personal values are just that; personal, and it is only for us that the meanings of those values are important. Our values are ultimately the moral standards against which we judge others, and how we wish to be treated. Personally, I am no more likely to be attracted to someone motivated by power than I am someone lacking a sense of humour.
For most of us, values matter because:
- They are important in our lives and are central in the decisions we make.
- They demonstrate concern and consideration for those around us.
- They demonstrate dedication and commitment to all we do.
- They regulate our standards of behaviour, particularly towards others.
- They enable others to develop confidence in how we conduct ourselves, promoting trust and mutual respect.
Depending upon the number of values we hold, the type of value may not change over a prolonged period. What is more likely is that the prioritisation of our values may change with our life circumstances.
Fortunately, at the deepest level of our being, most of us share similar universal values, such as freedom of expression, freedom to vote, freedom to work, and freedom to worship.
* Barrett. R., 2018, Everything I have learned about values, Lulu Publishing Services.
Here are three ways you can learn more about what makes you, you and why values matter.
1. Take the Barrett Values Centre’s Understanding your personal values course.
2. Discover what makes you come alive with the Sparktype assessment.
3. Take the Barrett Values Centre’s personal values assessment.