The Origin of Business Values
There are different ways to look at the world of business, just as there are different ways to look at everything in life. When it comes to business, your perception depends on your outlook. You can view business as a rough and tumble bar fight where victory depends on quick wits and quick fists coupled with a taste for blood.
Alternatively, you can view it as a positive human enterprise where cooperation is just as important as competition. The thing is, either view can be as valid as the other if there is no steady element to provide perspective.
Luckily, such an element exists – the idea of values.
In order to understand values, we have to understand human nature and human origins. To understand human nature, we only have to look into our own hearts. We know that each of us is capable of positive, constructive behaviours, as well as negative, destructive behaviours.
A quick look at the history of mankind bears this out. History is filled with horrific acts of cruelty and barbarity. It’s a laundry list of war, genocide, oppression and enslavement. However, there are also instances of remarkable acts of kindness, leniency, mercy and forgiveness. How can the same creature exhibit such a duel nature?
How can we have both good and evil inside of us?
The answer to that question lies in the mists of time. Many millions of years ago humans shared a common ancestry with both chimpanzees and bonobos. Now, everyone is familiar with the chimpanzee, mostly from movies and television. Bonobos are less familiar to us, but basically resemble slender, slightly smaller chimps.
There is a difference however between chimp behaviour and bonobo behaviour. Chimps are aggressive, violent to their own kind, territorial and domineering. Bonobos, on the other hand, are non-aggressive, gentle with their own kind, and non-territorial.
In some very specific ways, one species exhibits the dark traits that humanity displays and the other exhibits the light side of humanity. Since all three of us descend from a common ancestor, you can say that this ancestor was the source of our dual nature.
Because we are capable of such violent actions, values developed as a way to check our most terrible behaviours while, at the same time, encourage our best behaviours. You can look at them as a sort of coping mechanism that stopped us from destroying each other while we developed as a species.
Today, values still work promote positive social actions at the expense of negative anti-social actions.
The Specifics of Setting Business Values
There is no doubt that business values are an important key to the success of any business. They bring a ton of important benefits to an organization – benefits that enable the people involved in the business to work in unison to achieve important goals like increased profitability and business growth.
However, many people remain confused on how to actually go about setting up a set of business values for their business.
Do they choose the values themselves and impose them on the rest of the company?
Do they allow everyone else to decide what the business values are?
What if they don’t agree with all of the values chosen?
What if the rest of the business doesn’t agree with the values?
Fortunately, setting business values is not as difficult or complicated as it appears.
When setting your business’s values, the first thing to keep in mind is clarity. You need to be exceptionally clear about what the nature of each value and how it applies to the people in the organization.
This is not the time to use generalized, fuzzy or technical language. Clearly say what you mean and avoid confusion or even worse, apathy.
Now, take care to involve everyone in the business in the process of selecting the values.
Nothing will leave your colleagues colder about the business value set than excluding them from the process.
However, involving everyone in the process doesn’t mean that your own personal voice and style, as the owner of the business, has been silenced.
You still have a say. You need to lead the process without dictating the process. It’s a fine line, but you need to walk it if you’re going to end up with a set of values that are accepted company-wide.
Next make sure that the business values are formalized.
This means that they are not written down on a cocktail napkin or in the margin of a legal pad.
The values you select are important. Therefore, make sure that they are properly memorialized and available to everyone involved. Have them professionally printed out and hang them up where everyone in your business, including your customers, can see them.
Finally, you need to lead by example. Everyone in the business will be looking at you after the set of business values has been adopted.
Your behaviour will tell them whether the values are a living document that guides business behaviour or just a bunch of words that everyone pays lip service to. If you are serious about obtaining the benefits of the business value set for your business, then you have to be prepared to live those business values every day.