The Value of Values

Before I took up running I used to play proper grassroots Sunday League football back in the day. I may not look it, but I’m a sportsman through and through (or I’d like to think I am).

Every Sunday, before the match, our so-called manager would pin up the team sheet along with some tactics for that week – a few pearls of wisdom, alongside some formation and set plays, to ensure that this time at least we’d get the badly-needed points. We’d all gather round and study the piece of A4, misspellings and all, and go out onto the pitch all fired-up and ready to win.

The trouble was when we got there it all went out of the window. We’d run around haplessly and there was no sign of any strategy or working together and the results were inevitable – a slow slide down the table. You see, the problem was, although the manager had spent, ooh, at least 5 minutes committing his thoughts to paper (and they were essentially always the same, so consistency wasn’t an issue), we didn’t have a way of turning the principles into practice.

So often, it’s the same with a company’s values. We all work in the Social Enterprise sector because we’ve got a passion for what we do, and values, and that’s a great thing. We may even have spent hours articulating exactly what they are and have come up with a carefully-crafted mission and set of values as a guideline to how we want to work and be in the world. And then someone in the organization goes and does something that completely contravenes the rules; not because they’re a bad person but because we’re all human and it’s very difficult to hold to your principles, especially under stress.

How many people in your social enterprise can tell you, without looking, what your professed values are? And how many live them on a daily basis? Do you? If the answer’s yes, then bravo, you’ve got it cracked. But the chances are, you’ll say “sometimes” and feel just a little bit frustrated that your values don’t infuse all your activities at all times.

So, what’s the secret? Let’s begin with some clarity on why they matter so much.

Values matter because they define your company’s culture. They affect how you recruit, how you deal with your stakeholders (from employees to customers, suppliers and the world at large); they enable you to make better decisions and be consistent in your behavior, creating congruence between your personal intentions and your organizational actions.

But values cannot be taught; skills can be taught but values can’t. They have to be lived and the big question is HOW DO YOU DO IT?

By using them; every day and in every decision we make until, like brushing your teeth, they become a habit. Consider how your values influence the product you offer to your customers to help them address their problems. How do you use them in dealing with your employees? Would they agree that your behavior is consistent with what you say? How often do your Board or Senior Management Team reference them at a Board or Senior Management Team meeting as you implement your business strategy?

One of the things that makes the Social Enterprise Sector unique is that it looks to put values front and centre, as it seeks to grow. But to do that successfully it has to learn to bring them alive.

For the team’s performance on the pitch to reflect the aspiration of the coach, it takes patience and constant application at all times in everything you do. It’s not just a piece of A4 paper stuck on the wall.

We all work in the social enterprise sector because we want to improve the world. Values, clearly defined and consistently applied, allow you to do that in a systematic way. If you basically want a Win/Win in all aspects of your life, values are key and they become the link to partnership building and alignment within the sector. They also make your life, and that of the people around you, more pleasant and fulfilling.

To discuss how you can put Values at the heart of your enterprise, call or drop a line to us at Bubble Chamber ; it would be great to have a chat.


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