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Posted by Sarah Brown on 22 Oct '14

Why you need to rank your values to radically change your business

{img_title} Download Principles Prioritiser here

All businesses have values, sometimes they are unspoken and sometimes confused but they will exist. My frustration is with businesses that have values that either do not translate into behaviour or are not ranked. Behaviours I’ll cover some other time because the ranking is the most critical.

“In reality, all organisations are values-driven. The critical issue is whether these values are conscious, shared and lived, or remain unconscious and undiscussed. When values are not defined, the culture of the organisation is subject to the vagaries of the personality of the leader. When the leader changes, the values will change accordingly.” Barrett

I freely admit that when I first started in business I knew I had values but I didn’t know that the prioritisation is the critical step to making them work. Whilst loyalty, being non- judgemental and acting with integrity and honesty are critical values to me and inspire2aspire, once I understood that my top value was “changing the world”  and using my creativity and thinking ability to help people who have ambition to change the world it helped me realise why some clients frustrated me and where I can add most value. Given a choice I will always prioritise that top value first. Luckily there generally is not a conflict for me but there can be for people and organisations as these two examples show.

Take the example of the golfer who turned professional but was having limited success. His values included winning and excitement, not that controversial until you rank them. Then all became clear, his top value was excitement followed by winning so unlike Nicklaus when he had to choose a shot he wouldn’t take the %shot that was safe but not exciting, he’d take the exciting shot through the trees, over the water and either get the thrill of applause or the sound of the plop as he landed in the stream. Knowing his ranking of his values allowed him to consciously address the issue and he looked for excitement elsewhere in his life so that golf could satisfy his value of winning.

We find getting boards to review their values is very powerful and identifies differences in perspective and leads to useful debate. We use our Principles Prioritiser© to identify them and then we rank them using a simple technique which forces honesty.

We were working with a board of a PR consultancy and there was general agreement on the values and then we came to ranking them. All the board agreed that the top value was meeting deadlines except for one person, the MD, and his top value was no faults. In a perfect world you achieve both, but what happens when the receptionist gets a document with a spelling mistake or poor printing and the courier has arrived to make sure it is delivered on time – who does she upset, who does she please, probably who does she lie to? If you are a customer of that consultancy do you know that every deadline will be met but you check the work just in case or do you know it will always be perfect but might be a little late? What makes you a hero to the directors, makes you a villain to the MD and vice versa. So this is why I am so passionate about people being clear about their values and what is most important; it’s not fair to your staff or your customers or suppliers if you aren’t clear.

In a perfect world all our values are met but when reality hits what really is most important? Do you know, do your staff know?