When Values Become a Joke
Why It's Important to Choose Your Values Honestly
Nowadays, you stumble across corporate values almost every day: in your own company, in the mail footers, in social media & elsewhere. Personally, I usually smile, and I can't take them seriously. A few days ago my current CEO made a statement in this context that motivated this short article:
If you come up with a bunch of values and you don't live them, you don't hold yourself to account as organisation [...], then they become a joke Giles Palmer
I would even go one step further: they not only become a joke, but also highly destructive. In order to add a little more context to the picture: we have also defined values at Brandwatch whose origin dates back several years. As part of my first blog post, I already mentioned some of them, but the complete list is: Be bold. Be brilliant. Be authentic. Be accountable. Be connected.
I do not want to focus on a specific company in this article, but rather on the topic in general. So if you feel offended, I'm a bit sorry, but I'd appreciate and prefer a discussion instead of being sad.
Well, why do I usually smile? Do you folks remember your teenage years? Your parents, who tried to use the youth language to be cool, but as a result they were not cool at all? Or classmates who claimed to be cool? But just because they said so, they weren't cool either? In my opinion, this is similar to corporate values.
It seems that such values are often defined when there are problems in the company or when you want to convince potential employees of how great and innovative you are. Firstly, it doesn't solve problems; your colleagues won't start to be helpful and cooperative just because someone defines it as a so-called 'value'. Secondly, as a potential employee, I am not interested in what is written in the mail footer or on your walls.
Actions speak louder than words, don't they? So if you want to embody certain values in your company as a leader, start right away. Lead by example. Discuss with employees what is important to them and how to make these values part of the company and culture. Do you want to encourage your employees to be innovative? In that case, create an environment where it is possible/secure to be creative and to fail. When employees do not want to be 'authentic' at work because it makes them feel uncomfortable but want to be professional, just create an environment in which both are possible. I might be able to go on with the list forever, but I think my point of view is becoming clear.
At the same time, do you want to communicate your values to the world outside? The same principle applies here: show it with actions. It really depends on what values you want to express. Besides events, open source contributions, sponsoring, social media activities and the like, your creativity knows no bounds. It is feasible, and there are many positive examples. But as I said at the beginning, make sure you don't become a joke. If you already embody the defined values as company and it is more than a crappy marketing move: well done.
All of this is a pity because I believe that a lot of potentials might be lost. If you do it right, the values — and how you live them — cannot only set the company apart from the competition but also serve as a common course for the employees.
It's similar to the coxswain in rowing: when used properly, it might effect miracles and support team work. Otherwise, it probably destroys togetherness and harmony.
So, I had to get rid of that. If you see it differently or want to add something, feel free to get in touch. Meanwhile, I'm enjoying the great weather and atmosphere here in Brighton — might be due to the quite successful English national team. Let us see if it's actually 'coming home'.