Values, culture and business effectiveness

Values essential for effective business

Values are concepts that inform beliefs of what is good and right and which motivate behaviour.   These in turn inform the culture of a business: what it focuses on, produces and rewards. Values, culture and business effectivess are closely linked.  Misalignment carries costs to personnel motivation, turnover and enagement.

In a recent survey considering the role of coaching and climate change we asked: what values do you consider essential for a successful busines/workplace?  This word cloud was generated from the answers to the question and gives a visual impression of the words that 82 respondents thought were essential for effective business.  Some are curious and you may question whether some are values but in the event the standout words are integrity and trust.

So far, so obvious. But

Of course, values are notoriously tricky because the understanding of these concepts and the words we use: your honesty might not be mine!  However, it might be fair to assume that in the organisations above which listed  integrity and trust staff and customers enjoy a strong sense of safety as they can trust that their ideas will be heard and considered. Additionally, a workplace demonstrating the value integrity might enable open and transparent consideration of mistakes and equitably of treatment of staff at all levels.

In my experience, both as a leader and more recently as a coach,  company values, if anyone can remember them, are often described in derisory way.  Clients describe a list that is  generated during a workshop to be inserted into the planning and promotional documents.  They are seldom routinely revisited and investigated in relation to the messiness of the day to day life of the workplace as experienced by the teams or customers.

Values are often noticed when they are trashed. I remember working for an organisation which listed inclusion as a core value. We watched in dismay as pay inequity, building design, recruitment process and project work routinely excluded certain groups and staff.  Turn-over in that organisation was high perhaps fuelled by disillusion.  Some stayed hoping for a change in leadership,  others remained but with a cynical view of the organisation’s integrity, Worse, some for whom inclusion didnt really matter much remained creating a misalignment with the intended culture of the place.

Right idea: wrong questions

In fact we asked the wrong question.  We should have asked: How important are clearly articulated values for effective business?  I imagine most would say “Very”. And if we had asked this question it would be followed by   How clearly are those of your business reflected across all aspects of your workplace?  How often do you reconsider them in practice? What is a lack of clarity costing you?


In the same survey 20% of respondents asked if their current workplace reflected their values answered  neutral,  disagree or strongly disagree.  Workplace culture is a common area of concern for clients considering professional satisfaction and effectiveness. What is their disillusionment costing them in low motivation and what is it costing the busines they work for?

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