Is your business values led or values neutral?
21st March 2016
Earlier this month I was fortunate to lead a discussion with a group of engaged IFB members on the life of values within their family businesses. It was heartening to be joined by a group of leaders keen to deepen their thinking, share their experiences and focus the ways in which values can live in practice in a commercial context.
Values describe what is fundamentally important and meaningful to us and directly relate to a sense of purpose. If our values are not adding to our work and lives in a positive way, then what’s the point of them?
Our starting place at Oasis, however, is in acknowledging that having shared, compelling business values is important. Having values that are alive and well and impacting on every part of your business can make the difference between it being a great place to work or a quick stepping stone to something better. For those of us engaged with questions of succession for the future, this can either be viewed as a sobering reality or a rally call to action!
In our discussions with family businesses leaders it is evident that having clearly articulated values can make the difference between being one of the crowd and standing out with a strong competitive advantage. And yet, with the best of intentions and the clearest of mission statements there can be the potential for space to develop between what we espouse and what happens in reality. The workshop was designed to provide an opportunity to explore the health of company values and a chance to think through how to narrow the gap and make them more vibrant and compelling - for all involved.
It was great to hear IFB members’ experiences and to understand their thinking. Clearly, many family businesses are actively working with questions of how to strengthen their values and the culture those values create. I went away with some new ideas based on the conversations we had together.
Key points from the discussion were that values used well can
- Inform decision making
- Assist prioritsation
- Help people shape their own contribution to the business and the stakeholders they serve
- Create the cohesion that creates the whole
- Provide an anchor point for people new to the business
- Provide inner stability and consistency to work with ambiguity, uncertainty and the demands of a constantly changing market place
Several members spoke of the need for values to be genuinely reflected in the life of the business; in every aspect: internal and external communication, the way that suppliers and customers are treated, how it feels to be a member of staff. All of this takes time and focus and marks the defining culture of the business.
Others spoke of the need to move away from generic catch phrases that whilst well meaning in their intention, mean little in reality. Replacing this with values that make moral and commercial sense and are a genuine lodestar for the business takes rigor and lots of dialogue.
These are issues and questions for which there are no easy answers – that’s what makes them so fascinating. It is worth working with questions such as these over time and with others.
We will be taking this discussion one step further on the 7th April, at the IFB Masterclass ‘Developing the Workplace of Tomorrow, Today’. At that Masterclass we will be exploring how family firms can develop into great workplaces for the future, and how to harness your values to attract the best talent. Find out more and register for the Masterclass here.