Values don’t just matter: they are behind every choice we make

By Carl Miller, President of Impact Makers

Why do values matter?

It’s a great question and the answer is obvious. Or is it?

Most leaders and employees intuitively know that an organization needs values. However, if 35 years in the workplace has shown me anything it is that most leaders and employees seem to never consider why values really matter. I’ve worked in the public sector and the private sector; small companies and large companies; companies that were failing and companies that were thriving. All those companies had a set of values. That thoughtful collection of words – though well-constructed and well-intentioned – never really did, well, anything for me or from what I could tell – for the company.

So, here’s my take. Values matter because organizations are run by individuals who make an incalculable number of decisions on a daily basis. Some of those decisions are very small and inconsequential ones while others are significant decisions that affect the lives of many people within the organization  and in the community. The decisions we make can be arrived at autonomously or through group consensus. They can be driven by unintentional bias or personal motivations.They may be backed by extensive, impartial analysis or be the outcome of a detailed cost benefit analysis.  Rarely is a decision made without any alternate choice. While there may seem to be no wrong answers; more often than not, there exist multiple right choices each with its own virtues.

So… how do we know that we are making the right decision for the business and stakeholders?

Simple – our values should guide us to ensure that we consistently arrive at a decision that is best for the organization and the stakeholders. Values drive HOW we want a company to operate. The negotiation strategy we choose to use should reflect corporate values just as much as our benefit plans, procurement policies and performance management systems.

Values should not be confused with Mission or strategy. A corporate Mission should define the organization’s purpose or WHY the firm exists. To borrow from my current employer, Impact Makers, our Mission – simply stated – is to sell our consulting services to fund community improvement. We also have a strategy that defines WHAT activities we are going to do in order fulfill our mission. Our HOW – the link between our WHY and WHAT – is our values.

Values should define HOW we – any leaders and decision-makers for our respective businesses – are going to go about our daily, quarterly, and annual activities. There are many ways we could achieve our objectives. Values help us choose the path and approach that gets us there in the manner we desire. As such, values have become and remain Impact Makers’ “North Star,” the unchanging navigation point by which we chart our course and evaluate whether we are on the right path. And in some ways, a north star is actually an understatement at Impact Makers. Values aren’t a tiny speck miles away in the distance, seen only when squinting in a particular direction in the dead of night, summoned only in moments of deep trouble. Impact Makers’ values are much more than just words on our wall, the names of our conference rooms, or employee review categories. They are how all of us function, move, and decide every day.

Ultimately, that is why values matter – and should matter, to all of us as business leaders and decision-makers.

Stay tuned for more to come about how our values influence our bottom line and other areas of our business.

About the author:

As President of Impact Makers, Carl Miller uses his considerable program/project management and operational experience to continue to build our delivery capabilities and help grow our business. Carl leads our day to day delivery of consulting services and business operations.

Learn more about Carl Miller