Why Values Matter

What we do is important but how we do it matters more.

A start-up once engaged me to get its form, functions and governance frameworks designed and running smoothly.  Part of the process involved creating a strategic plan to which the Board could hold itself and management accountable.

Agreeing the vision, mission, goals, targets, budgets, lines of authority, responsibility and accountability ran as smoothly as such things can when a diverse team is hashing out the potentially thorny issues of where it wants to go and how it ought to get there.

Then we hit a speed bump.

The CEO didn’t believe aspirational values matter.  For him, ideals that speak to who we desire to be look pretty on paper but are rarely lived out by people.

He struggled to understand how they could be incorporated into work plans and every-day routines in ways that would make a measurable impact on his company’s bottom line.

Better, he felt, to leave them out.

In some ways, he wasn’t wrong.

It takes courage, self-awareness and disciplined leadership to live out aspirational values, particularly when people have diverse backgrounds and worldviews.

A Shared Vision Isn’t Enough

It’s necessary to check constantly to see whether what everyone is doing lines up with the ideals the organisation says it embodies.

People can share a vision but differ on the best strategy to achieve it.  Aspirational values help sift and sort strategic decisions so the organisation stays true to its guiding spirit even under extreme pressure.

Events, situations, people, the universe itself will test us to see whether we are what we say we represent.

If we’re not prepared to align everything we do with who we say we are, we shouldn’t stress aspirational values at all.

Whether positive or negative, values are the ideals to which we become attached. They’re what we do because of who we are, guiding our behaviour even when no one is looking.

Not Who We Used to Be

Values reveal the things that find a home in our hearts.

That’s why they’re so vital on any journey of transformation.

Though we might not yet be who, what or where we say we want to be, aspirational values give us a target to aim for, especially when things aren’t easy, particularly when we stand alone.

The Caribbean is steeped in colonial traditions that institutionalised a multitude of demeaning and destructive values.

One Treasure Limited

They won’t go away simply because we invest in cutting-edge technologies or invoke pretty words on a page. 

If we say we want digital transformation, we must start by embodying empowering values that show we are not who we used to be.

The question is, “do our aspirations matter enough to us to live them out even though it means confronting in ourselves and in our behaviour the shadows of a painful and demoralising past?”

We won’t transform anything for the better until we have mastered the art of transforming ourselves.

And when we’re in doubt about our choices, when questionable voices compete to influence our decisions and direction, when our original intention seems lost amid the clamour, values are the compass that will always keep us pointed to our True North, pointed towards home.

More to explore

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They say it’s not what you know but who you know that counts. Neither idea could be further from the truth …

Why Values Matter

What we do is important but how we do it matters more. A start-up once engaged me to get its form, functions

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