Values and your “True North”

Are values critical to business success, or just fluffy “nice to haves”?

First, Define Success

Does running or owning a company making significant profits equal success?  The answer depends on your values.

If you value money over relationships, free time, health or making a positive impact then probably yes.  But for many people, making money but sacrificing health, time or relationships is a failure.  Knowing your values allows you to define success.

Complex Decisions

Decision making can be hard.  Having rules makes decisions easier, faster and less stressful.

For example, having a work, school, or golf dress code makes getting ready easy.  We simply wear our “work” clothes, school uniform, or golfing kit and get on with it.  Rules simplify life.

Daniel McGinn when interviewed about leadership for the Harvard Business Review, said Barack Obama had “a strict 6:30pm time for dinner with his family, and it was pretty much inviolate. He was willing to miss dinner twice a week, but that was it.  That rule was very unusual for a president.”

Barack’s personal rule, derived from his values, made it easier for him to manage his time, to say “no”, and to live his values.

Values are to be lived…

Many business owners attend a Values Workshop to articulate and define their shared values. They publish the values on the company website and design some cool lunchroom posters.  Then they promptly forget about them.

Fast forward to when a situation arises… they could try to hide it, deny or minimize it, hire a PR agency to spin, or communicate openly to the affected people. If the company has a shared value of “transparency” then their authentic response will be obvious.

Living your values makes hard decisions easier.  Values are your decision-making compass, directing you to “true North”.

Business Values v Personal Values

Personal values may not be the same as business values.  Business values align with your business purpose and may be industry specific.

For example, accountants are often perceived as reactive and unimaginative.  Q2’s top three shared values are therefore:

  • Excellence – being our best
  • Initiative – being proactive
  • Innovative – being creative

Personal values are shaped by how we define success, what gives us joy, and how we want to be remembered when we die. For example, my top three personal values are

  • Passion – loving life
  • Kindness – to people and the planet
  • Courage – doing the right thing.

Values evolve over time

We are all unique and values are determined by our upbringing, ambitions, and how we experience the world.  As we mature our values may evolve, because we are thinking, growing humans.

Investing time to define our values is time well spent.

“Values are like fingerprints.  Nobody’s are the same, but you leave ‘em all over everything you do”.

Elvis Presley


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