Don’t Confuse Values With Customer Expectations
By: Scott Seroka
The process of defining one’s values has unquestionably become one of the hottest trends in corporate and employer branding.
And when integrated into a well-functioning, healthy culture, the results can be extraordinary in many ways.
- Values guide employees toward desired behaviors, beliefs and attitudes required to deliver on the brand promise.
- They establish guardrails and provide guidance for making company-wide decisions throughout all levels, no matter how large or small.
- Greater onboarding success can be achieved as hiring managers will know what traits and qualities to look for in potential hires.
- When work teams share a common set of values, not only does productivity increase, conflict diminishes as harmony becomes more mainstream in the workplace.
- When competitive products and services appear equal, people will typically support brands with values they believe in.
However, in the process of defining values, some organizations don’t realize that the very values they are promoting are more aligned with, and are better defined as, minimum customer expectations.
Consider the following examples:
- Honesty. Unless your company is in an industry rife with deception and manipulation, I would avoid characterizing honesty as a value. Think of it this way: Your mother may have told you not to trust anyone who says, “Trust me.” The same applies in business. However, if you still feel strongly that honesty needs to be one of your values, a better option may be transparency.
- Respect. Not to diminish its meaning, but this isn’t anything special. If respect isn’t a part of your company’s culture, you have much larger problems to contend with.
- Integrity. Because of such widespread and excessive use (like the term innovation), its meaning and relevance has been lost.
- Teamwork. Customers have a right to expect that your people will operate and work as a team. If the left hands don’t know what the right hands are doing, your company simply will not be successful.
- Thinking outside the box. I’m surprised every time I see this one. It’s an ancient and currently irrelevant way to express creativity and innovation. In fact, some believe that thinking “outside the box” can be counterproductive and detrimental. Apple creatively circumvented this with their tagline, “Think Different.”
- Excellent customer service. If your company is not focused on providing customers with the best possible level of service, you won’t be able to keep any.
When considering what your values are, or what they could be, think in terms of the mindset you will need to take your company to successive levels. For example, one CEO shared with me that his original team did a great job of getting his company to hit $5 million in sales, but not all were up to the task of hitting $10 million. And although he was proud of his culture, he admittedly never thought through what values would be necessary to achieve $10 million in sales and beyond.
After much introspection, some of the values he defined and instilled in his culture included: perseverance, courage, risk-taking, accountability, welcoming oppositional thinking, and succeeding through failure.
Today, he is currently running a $32 million company and is convinced it would not have been possible without defining and hiring to a set of ordained values.
It’s clear he found the formula.