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Why It's Not Enough To Tell People Your Values

Show you mean it. Why it’s not enough to list your core business values

August 2020 · 2.5 Min Read

“I don’t know, integrity will do, I guess”

Ever read a list of values on a company website and wonder if there is any truth to them? We discussed Why Core Business Values Matter in our last blog but there is often a misunderstanding that surrounds the term. CEOs, managers and other key stakeholders in an organisation realise that values might matter to their clients and decide to do something about it. The problem is that instead of working with their teams to define what their shared values are and why they matter, they come up with a list of values they think a typical customer cares about and add them to their website.

We can see right through you

It’s pretty easy to tell when this has been done a lot of the time because the values are often exactly the same as the first few values suggested on Google but even companies who really dive into defining their values can fail to live by them. Everything starts on a good footing. Marketing, sales, the CEO, accounting, HR and a few others get in a room and talk about the values that matter the most to them. They think about what their customers care about and what connects each person in the room. Their shared values are narrowed down and they truly believe in their answers. They leave the room, list their values on a website, hang them on a wall in the office and forget all about them.

Core Values

Show you mean it

When someone I don’t know says “trust me”, my first thought is “I don’t trust this person”. It may be silly but it’s instinctive (or is it based on experience and values? Same thing?). I have no reason to trust this person and it seems off that they feel the need to tell me to trust them. When someone acts consistently in a way that shows them to be trustworthy, I start to trust them. This is why listing values on a website or an office wall is not enough to make me believe a company has those values. I need to consistently see them in action. Ralph Waldo Emerson said “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” It’s his take on actions speak louder than words and it’s no truer than in the context of values. In simple terms, you have to show that you mean it!

Showing clients is not enough

Let’s say a rule is established: “Every time a piece of content is released, it must show off the company values or at the very least, not go against them”. This is great but only if those same values are being shown to colleagues, suppliers, business partners and every other stakeholder.

Core values are there to make hiring the right employees easier, to bring teams together, to help with a good decision-making process and so much more. If they are only being shown to clients, they’re not really being shown at all. You’ll end up hiring the wrong people, working with the wrong suppliers and failing to make consistent decisions. Clients will notice this, no matter how well you think you’re hiding it from them.

Don't just list your core values, live them

That’s why we explain to our clients that they need to live their values. They’re not sales tools, they’re the basis for almost everything you do. Like every area of your brand, your values need to be clear and they need to be consistent. If you’d like to find out how a Defining Your Brand Workshop makes that happen, [email protected].

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Are your core values just words?

What difference do they make to your business?

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