Are you sure that your company’s values exist? I know it’s a bit of a clickbait title, but we both know that if we write something along the lines of “The types of company values” you might never have read this blog post. And by the stroke of a pen, the topic has been introduced: The 4 types of values in a company.
It turns out that saying that one of your company’s values is teamwork doesn’t necessarily make it accurate (surprised?). Confusing them can send a wrong and confusing message that gets precisely the opposite of what we want to achieve by communicating our company values.
As always, Lencioni (yes, the author of team dysfunctions) comes to the rescue. He proposes 4 very different types of values, and as such, they should be treated differently.
The non-negotiable ones. These are not the values I would love to have (we will see those later). They are the values most embedded in the culture. They are the values for which everything else in a company is sacrificed, from short-term profit to risky decisions to stay true to these values.
One of the characteristics of these values is that they are unique and differentiating. That is, they make your company different from the rest and therefore mark a line not only in the type of culture but also in the people who fit into it.
These are the values to be communicated with great fanfare because there is no risk of making mistakes. We do not desire to have them; they are already there and are part of our culture. These values are generally present in companies from the beginning of their creation (especially young companies) and reflect the founders’ vision.
This is where the great confusion often comes from. When a company reflects on its values, it usually agrees on values that it would love to have but do not yet exist within the culture. Values that we know will define or guide a series of behaviors that will help us succeed even though we have not yet adopted them.
One of the problems with values often comes from confusing these first two types. When you communicate a series of values that are not lived in the company’s day-to-day operations, you end up generating what we have called “cultural dissonance.” If you want to know more about it, we have another article just about that.
If you can differentiate between core and aspirational values, you already have a lot to gain when creating a coherent culture.
These are core values and are common to many companies. In other words, they do not make you “special” in the same way that core values do. We are talking about matters that guide similar standards of behavior in similar regions or companies. These are values such as “Hygiene” or “Integrity.” A minimum of hygiene is expected of employees, and not having it can be a reason not to hire someone. But just as you do, so does your competition and probably every company in the country. Just like integrity, no company advocates lying or enticing its customers.
I love these values. They are values that have not intentionally been lined out, yet have emerged.
These emerging values may or may not help us as a company, but they are certainly there. It is essential to distinguish them as they are usually generated from a less strategic perspective and can be confused with Core Values. Just as Core Values typically have a deep root in the company and start from the leadership, these accidental values emerge from the people who are part of the company.
Our Culture Design service starts with a review of the purpose and values to intentionally design the relationships, the organization, and the spaces to reflect those Core Values or favor the aspirational ones. If you want to know more, take a look at our culture design canvas.