Values: The Great Missed Opportunity

By Tony Tiernan

An organization’s core values are the source of its uniqueness. They are the inviolable truths that shape your authentic identity and guide the behavior that makes you who you are. So why are most corporate values so hopelessly trite?

Chances are you believe in integrity, respect and collaboration. You probably also believe in being customer-centric, authentic and trusted. Oh, and having fun. Great, but so do your competitors. And your clients likely view those values as the basic code of conduct for any professional organization.

These are fine values, but there is nothing distinctive about them (and dozens of others like them that organizations like to list). They would be remarkable only if they were absent. They are the values of the category that you compete in, but they don’t tell your clients what makes you unique or your people how to behave in a way that reinforces that uniqueness.

We tell our clients that their core values have two jobs to do: support the mission and shape the behaviors that signal the organization’s uniqueness. They should express (and help your people manifest) what truly differentiates your firm, and not simply re-state the table stakes for your profession.

Used that way, core values are a tool for differentiation and a guide to living your organizational brand. How well do your values set your organization apart?

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