“Values” have gone viral, and not necessarily in a good way. The process of discovering and clarifying your values and building your business based on them is a deeply personal one, but the cynical marketers among us have other designs. If they have their way, and they will, saying you have ‘strong core values’ will mean about as much as saying your product is ‘natural’. That’s actually good news.
Good marketers understand social and cultural trends. They understand that people — especially the most important consumer generation ever don’t just want to feel emotionally connected to a brand, they demand to feel that way. But what marketers don’t appreciate is how much work it takes to actually be one of those brands. And there’s your opportunity.
You can build and run a great business and let your values speak for themselves. Because nobody cares about your values. What people care about is whether you embody them. What they tell their friends about is when your business gives them an experience that has value. For them.What you say your company values are is irrelevant. What matters is whether people can experience them.
And when you find your real values — which isn’t easy — you’ll notice that you tend to keep them to yourself. You’ll realize that they’re an internal standard, something you listen for rather than shout about. You’ll use them as a lens to look at every detail of your customers’ experience to see if all the little things are the way they should be. You’ll evaluate employees on whether they’re personally embodying those values and not just reading them off a script. You’ll take advantage of the powerful tools available through social media to listen to what your customers have to say, and not waste time telling them what you wish they would hear.
There is one place you can and should talk about your values, that’s with your employees. But be specific when you do. Don’t drop words like integrity, honesty, and respect without giving clear examples of what you mean by them. And the best way to share your values with your staff is by showing them detailed examples of how your business, or better yet you personally, failed to live up to them. By demonstrating that you are a work in process, you give permission to your employees to be the same.
There’s a simple way to measure whether your values are being embodied on the front lines of your business. Do your people treat customers the way you want them to without having to ask you? Do they do the right thing in a way that you are proud of?
If they do, you’ve found your core values and are doing the great work to get them going throughout your business. Let your customers do the talking. If that’s not happening in your business except when you’re in the room, time to get to work.