How Important Are Your Values? What Is Your Number 2?

Values – every company hangs them on the wall and distributes them on wallet cards. It is the same for individuals. Ask ten of your friends to list their values, and at least eighty percent will use words like respect, integrity, and honesty.

So how important are your values? Will you sacrifice them for the results and outcomes you desire? Are they so important that you would lay down your life – figuratively or literally – to protect them?

Jack Welch, former General Electric CEO, wrote that there were four types of managers in the company’s 2000 Annual Report:
• Managers that deliver results and live the company values
• Managers that deliver results and don’t live the company values
• Managers that live the company values and don’t deliver results
• Managers that do not deliver results and do not live the company values

Take a minute a rank the four types of managers Welch described from one to four with “1” being the most desirable.

Number one is easy: Managers that deliver results and live the company’s values. Number four is easy, too: Managers that do not deliver results and do not live the company’s values.

Here’s the tough question: Which one is number two? At the end of the day, would you rather have results without the values or values without the results?

Some companies avoid this debate by stating that they value exceptional results. That’s a little like a school of fish writing a values statement that includes “water.” Every company needs results, but including that in your values statement only states the obvious.

Let’s expand the discussion.

What would you think of a company that would consciously go out of business rather than violate its values? How would you feel about your spouse, partner, or best friend who walked away from a huge pay day because it violated their values? How would your spouse, partner, and friends feel about you if you stuck to your values rather than sacrifice them to achieve some result? How would you feel about yourself?

Jack Welch ranked the four types of managers this way:
1. Managers that deliver results and live the company values
2. Managers that live the company values and don’t deliver results
3. Managers that deliver results and don’t live the company values
4. Managers that do not deliver results and do not live the company values
He believes that people who live your values should be given additional training or at least another chance to perform after receiving feedback.

So what about the manager who delivers results and doesn’t live the values? I agree with Welch, they should be gone IF your values are really your values. These individuals destroy trust, and trust is the lubricant that reduces friction and allows your organization to run at peak effectiveness.

The philosopher Heraclitus said, “Character is destiny.” What you are at your core determines where you will go. It works that way for companies, and it works that way for individuals.

At the end of the day, we all come to know the true importance of our values when we are presented with the choice to sacrifice them on the altar of expedience or honor them regardless of the consequences. That is when we choose which option is number 2.

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One Response to How Important Are Your Values? What Is Your Number 2?

  1. Chris Osborn says:

    Great post. I agree – #2 has to be values without results. I’d suggest that it’s much easier to teach, train and develop to get results than it is to “learn” values. In my experience, values are more ingrained, and we might learn some things are more important than we’d originally thought, but I think getting someone to adopt a set of values that they don’t inately hold is a very difficult proposition.

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