On World Values Day it’s What we Value that matters

Hurrah to World Values Day for challenging us to stand by what’s important to us, sharing great examples and practical tips to encourage good practice – so we can share what we value, and mean what we say.

As a specialist in culture and belonging, over the last 20 years having helped dozens of companies to define and put their values into action, I should be happy. I’m glad to see ‘values’ getting focus: but concerned that a list of ‘values’ is useless.

It’s what we value that matters.

Here’s the difference: it’s active, not passive.
And it’s at the heart of belonging.

‘Our values are…’ is passive. ‘Our values’ can all too easily remain static words with no action or accountability – A laundry list, a wish list, not practical reality or guidance.

How often have you seen a company’s list of ‘Our values’ that includes ‘Integrity’ ‘Respect’ or ‘Teamwork’ – and you know from experience that this is not at all how the company behaves?

Whereas ‘We value…’ is active.
We act in a particular way because of what we value.
We make decisions based on what we value.

And ‘We value…’ can be made specific.
It shares intent and provides a compass-point towards consequences.
‘We value integrity, so we don’t set high sales targets for financial products in favour of best advice for each customer’s needs’
‘We value respect, so we only purchase materials from companies who pass our supply chain test’.

‘We value…’ sets out the basis of belonging, the standards for membership of a group.

What we value influences who we choose to belong with, the strength of bond and loyalty between us. We invite people to join our groups when we think they share the same values, it’s part of our selection process, both as candidate and recruiter – whether implicit or explicit.

What we value frames our boundaries. There are things we cherish – and things we will not do – because of what we value.

This is so important, and so central to managing business risk (see more detail below) that we believe it should be mandatory to include in the corporate report a measured declaration of ‘What we value’, and what you do because you value those things, and how you have managed risk and avoided the cost of contravention.

The Financial Reporting Council (the FRC) took a careful look last year and is likely to update regulations next year.

A shared belief in ‘What we value’ shapes our sense of belonging.
It stresses who ‘We’ are, the character of the individuals and commitment of the group.
And this approach to values forms the ethos and purpose at the heart of belonging.

So here’s our top tip for World Values Day – turn all your values into active statements. State your belief, intent and effect ‘We value xxxx so we xxxx.’


Belonging Space helps clients put values into action, and create a healthy culture that supports their business success. It’s not a quick fix, though here’s a starter for ten.

Here’s our free workshop discussion format, for World Values Day:
‘What do we value, really?’

You’ll need at least 15 minutes for this, half an hour is great.
Get your team into small groups of 4-5 people.
Give each team pens and paper to write their answers.

Start the discussion with an open question ‘What do we value’?

Then ask your colleagues to expand and specify on these areas:Why does it matter?

  • What do we do differently because we value these things?
  • What business opportunity would we say ‘No’ to because of what we value?
  • How do we undermine what we value?

These questions get people to think more specifically. Give teams permission to revise their first answer to What do we value’? if the later questions show the values do not pass this reality check.

Now get teams to swap round their answer sheets: expand, challenge and give a practical example, share the stories that illustrate these values in action.
Pull the group together for final five minutes’ of consolidation and to agree action:

  • How can we do better? Change our behaviour, practice or tighten up the principles of what we value?

And now you’re a step closer to being able to say ‘What we value’ with confidence and credibility.

Email or call us to let you know how you get on, and whether you would like more support to put what you value into action every day.
0207 833 6420