Has your company undergone a painful / exhilarating values definition exercise? You know the kind, where everyone brainstorms what the company stands for, votes on it, then sings Kumbaya while dancing round an effigy of the founder. Or maybe that's just the way I do it...
Whether or not you've done this, chances are that a list of corporate values adorns your company's website. You may even have them emblazoned on your walls with dolphins or dramatic landscapes, almost as if to stress how these values actually live somewhere else. Or you may be one of the lucky few whose company's culture demonstrates them on a daily basis.
But I've noticed that regardless of which category a company falls in to, there's always one value that has pre-eminence over all the others. The one that the company consciously or subconsciously lives the most, and which ends up defining it. And that’s regardless of whether the company has actually articulated that particular value, or indeed any values at all.
Do you know what yours is?
When I was on the board of Conchango, a consultancy / agency top 5 ranked by Forrester at the time, we had a number of company values articulated. I'd love to boast of their originality, but in reality, most companies who mention values would probably share most of them. For instance, 'Honesty': do you know a company that advertises its lack of honesty as a key value? Thought not, though I'll bet you can name a few that should. We also made a lot of 'Openness'. And I think we opened the kimono with our team wider than most, regardless of what beauty or ugliness lay within, or what discomfort it caused the wearer or the observer. 'Collaboration' ? Yup, it underpinned much of our success, but was still not "the one". So even though innovation was one of our values (which I think we absolutely lived), I can't say that it stretched to defining our set of values.
Much as we loved these, there was always one other value that kept coming back. The one that tripped off the tongue in sales pitches, as much as within career development sessions, as much as after 6 or 7 Jaegerbombs at one of our community days.
That value was the “can-do attitude”. Forgive us, this started in the 90s after all. But corny as "can-do" as a phrase was, it had life, and was reflected in a variety of ways.