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Are your core values just words?

Are your core values just words? Do they cover every part of your business?

September 2020 · 2.5 Min Read

What is integrity?

We might as well start big. A discussion was recently had on LinkedIn about integrity. If integrity is about doing what’s right, how do we differentiate between an employee’s version of what’s right and an organisation’s version of what’s right? Does one not have integrity because their opinion of right is different? Is integrity, in fact, less about doing what’s right and more about doing what you believe to be right? Is it possible to have integrity as a core business value if there are varying opinions on “right” throughout a company?

Dictionary definitions

Most dictionaries break integrity down into 2 sections. The quality of being honest and the quality having strong moral principles. Both of these sections can be questioned. Complete honesty with everyone or just honesty with yourself? Your own strong moral principles or society’s? Who decides? Well, you do. As a company, you decide what integrity means to you but every single team member has to be clear on your definition. If you decide that they have to obey what your company deems to be morally principled, you’d better make sure they know exactly what that is in every scenario. There is an alternative. Hire staff who represent the other core values you believe in. If they also have the integrity to always do what they believe to be right, they’ll probably be doing what you think is right too.

Dictionary Definitions Core Values


One of the most commonly represented values to come out of tick box exercises is transparency. It seems like a great thing to aspire to. Every price is clearly displayed to your customers, the returns policy is clear to see and you will never persuade a client to buy from you if they don’t really need what you’re offering. It’s powerful and it’s a great sales tool but is it really a value? Do you tell your clients how much profit you’re making on every sale? Do you tell them who your suppliers are? Do you display everybody’s salaries on a board in the staffroom? Online?

A value isn’t a sales tool

For a value to be real, it can’t just be a few words that sound nice to a client, it has to run through every part of your business. Integrity (by our above definition) isn’t just about doing what you believe to be right when it comes to your customers, it’s about doing what you believe to be right by your colleagues, business partners, suppliers, everyone. The same goes for transparency. If you are not transparent in every aspect of your business, it’s not a good core value.

It makes it impossible!

It can feel that way. How can a core value realistically cover every part of a business? In reality, it’s just about better definitions. If your business is transparent about pricing with clients, clear on all of your processes with all stakeholders and always ready to explain your reasoning for any decision, maybe your core value is clarity? There’s a lot to explore to check if that’s true but it’s worth it. Once you’ve truly defined your core values, your future decisions will be easier to make, your team will know where to focus and you will find it easier to recruit a team that progresses the business in the way you’d like it to go.

Don’t take your core business values lightly

We’ve written about Why Core Business Values Matter and the importance of Showing Your Values in our latest blogs but if you haven’t defined them properly, nothing else will matter. If you need help to get that right, [email protected] and ask us about a Defining Your Brand Workshop.

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