A set of justice scales on a desk

What value do you place on your organisation’s values?

Does your organisation have values? Most do. The more pertinent question is, how much does your organisation value those values?

A leadership team I started with recently assured me they had values. “Great,” I replied, “What are they?” At this point they became extremely sheepish and their eyes moved very quickly to avoid contact with mine. No one could tell me what they were, not even the CEO.

Like so many other organisations, their values could well be renamed ‘dust collectors’. Signs on walls, laminated posters, documents stashed in bottom drawers…all created with great intent but that have been left to collect dust, never to be referred to again.

Principles and standards

The dictionary definition of values is, ‘principles or standards of behaviours; one’s judgement of what is important in life’.

So how and why then, are these ‘important principles and standards’ so easily dismissed? The answer could be any, or all, of the below:

  • Staff weren’t engaged in creating the values and hence have no buy-in. Indeed, it may be that current values don’t represent their personal values at all.
  • Values aren’t prioritised or seen as important; they were just created as a box-ticking exercise because that’s what businesses do.
  • Values are just corporate speak – words, rather than tangible behaviours.
  • Leaders and/or People and Culture staff (who, in theory at least, should be championing the cause) aren’t modelling the values so they have become a running joke.

Why should we prioritise our values; what is their point?

If you ask someone in an organisation where the values simply collect dust, their cynical response may well be that they are touchy-feely HR fluff that have no relevance to their job at all.

However, if we quizzed staff at an organisation that truly values their values, they will tell you that the values are critical in helping drive the performance of their organisation. They will also tell you that like anything worth doing, bringing these values to life, and keeping them alive, takes time and effort.

One organisation that does this really well is a client of mine, Kain Lawyers. In explaining why they brought in Leading Teams, MD John Kain said, “the ongoing involvement has been really good, because not only has it helped bring out the behaviours we want to exemplify, but it brings us back to them on a regular basis.”

Watch John talk about working with Leading Teams:

Kain Lawyers have a strong culture, yet they still spend considerable time in this space for two reasons; 1) because they want to hang on to what they have; and 2) they want to get even better.

So, what do Kain (and others) do to ensure their values are truly valued?

  • Allow the team to create the values and behaviours so that they have ownership of the framework. That way it will truly represent what they think is important.
  • Leaders take responsibility for modelling desired behaviours, as well as challenging and rewarding the behaviour they see from others.
  • Use them in recruiting. It makes sense that if we have a view of the culture we want in our workplace, we would be well-served by bringing in people who already fit that mould. As Richard Branson once said, “recruit on attitude and train them up.”
  • Promote staff based on their behaviours rather than just technical ability. At the sporting clubs we work with, their leaders are elected based on their ability to demonstrate agreed behaviours, rather than on their natural ability in the game. How would you or your leaders go with that?
  • Ensure the values are a prominent part of staff reviews and, ideally, a major component of any bonus structure.

Next time you walk past your values sign on the wall, or the laminated sheet on the pin board, stop and have a read (wipe the dust off first if you have to!). Ask yourself how your team is going? How much do you value your values?

Let Leading Teams help you define what it means to be a team. Contact us now.


Daniel Healy

Daniel Healy

Daniel joined Leading Teams in 2013 after an AFL playing and coaching career where he had first-hand experience of our program over 20 years. Daniel is a Facilitator/Partner based in Adelaide.
Learn more about Daniel.