Corporate Values – are you enthusiastic or indifferent?

A well-meaning friend recently sent this Dilbert cartoon in a group chat thoughtfully marked ‘one for our very own HR person’ (me).

  Dilbert on Corporate Values 

Credit: Adams, S. (2007). [online] Dilbert. Available at: 

Funny, yes, and I expressed my appreciation with a flurry of cleverly curated emoji’s.

Then the comments from the rest of the group came in.  Like any group, a spectrum of experience emerges.

There are the cynical stories of shiny posters and mouse-mats that sit alongside colleagues openly shouting at each other.

There are those in the middle ground who can maybe recall a value or two, but largely feel indifferent about them.

Finally, there are those who see the values of their organisation lived in a real way every day and connect with these as part of the reason they decided to join and continue to stay with the business.

This little exchange really got me thinking. As a person who loves people and business, I see values as being part of the very bedrock of every organisation. Culture, values and the way of working in a business and a team are all inextricably linked.

And yet somehow, for a decent number of organisations (although certainly not all), Values have become somewhat separated from the reality of the business, positioned almost as an aspiration, or a PR campaign, where the reality behind the scenes is disconnected from the shiny exterior.

Great values are inspiring

Aligned and articulated well, a great, simple set of authentic Values, can be an ultimate enabler of the hearts, minds and behaviours of teams within even the biggest organisations. Values inform and guide what matters – strategy, process, priorities and execution. They can help resolve arguments (‘what is the right decision to make in consideration of our values’). They help attract and keep great people. They are a vital part of creating and maintain a culture that adds value to and is valued by, your people, customers, and the communities you serve.

So, what is most important when it comes to values? Whether it is creating them, reshaping them or re-energising them.

Three things matter most.

1. They need to be real

Credit: Adams, S. (2013). [online] Dilbert. Available at: 

Another moment of Dilbert brilliance.

This exercise isn’t about finding the most desirable things that you think your business can be. Nor is it a time to copy the values of ‘cool kid’ companies.

This is about understanding what is most important for your business to work in a way that is great for your people, your customers, the community you serve and the work you do.

It’s about being authentically clear about the 3-5 most critical things that everyone needs to align around, and then, importantly, being very clear, about what it means for these to be lived every day.

Practically speaking – this is best done through being clear about each Value (which is usually one word, and should be max 4 words), and then supporting this through a simple sentence about what this actually means in your context.

2  They need to be created as a collective

This is not a ‘Marketing and Comms’ exercise that 1 person can do solo.

Done well – creating or refreshing your Values is done with a broad group of people who have different perspectives and lived experiences. This diversity of thought helps to ensure that the Values designed are inclusive enough to capture the hearts, minds, and efforts of your whole organisation.

3  They need to come to life

Don’t just have the discussion, design the poster and walk away. (In fact, avoiding creating posters and mouse mats is the best idea)

For Values to be valuable – they need to come to life where they matter most – in your culture, your leadership and in your core people processes that support both. Make sure recruitment, performance, reward, and talent are lined up behind and support your values. This will turn these into part of your DNA and intrinsic way of working, instead of the hollow initiative de jour or war cry they can often be.

At mwah. we see Values as part of what we are lovingly calling ‘the new basics’. The things that are fundamentally important to the success of organisations and experiences of teams, but potentially may have got a little lost along the way.

We are OBSESSED with getting back to the things that really matter, but of course, in the fresh, and slightly left of centre, mwah. way.

Ready to get started on your own values?  

We get this may be a little daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. We have spent a lot of time thinking (and rethinking), and then designing, how you can lead a great discussion about Values that delivers clear, practical outcomes, and can work in any team, business and industry context. We facilitate this work a lot, but we wanted to design a way that you could use to do-it-yourself if you wanted to close the door and have just your people in the room.

Designed to be simple to use (step-by-step instructions, scripts, facilitation notes, a cool little workbook, and a guide to embedding), and flexible (different timing, group size and facilitation options), the mwah. Values Facilitation Guide can be used by Leaders, HR or even great team members, to lead a meaningful values workshop, and then bring your unique values to life.

You can access the mwah. Values Facilitation Guide here, or contact us directly on [email protected]. We’d love to talk you through the best way to use it!

Go well as you jump into your Values work. Whether it is creating something that is shiny and new, or dusting off the classics, getting the Values of your organisation right, clear and integrated into everything you do, is an awesome investment into the success of your business and the positive experience of every person on your team.

And we would love to hear your stories as you do this – [email protected]