Are your values an end in themselves?

Values are only authentic if they are not means to an end, but they are the end in themselves.

Most corporations have a set of values, but many interpret them as a means to an end. The end is usually improving the bottom line, whether through branding, employee motivation, retention or organisational alignment.

The difficulty with this interpretation of values is that it implies that you would abandon these values if their profit contribution became unclear or the financial results faltered. The organisation would be as mercenary about changing its values as any other part of its business. This pragmatic approach will not fool employees for a minute, and the values will have no more power than any other short-term policy or mechanism.

Think of your own deepest held beliefs. Do you hold these beliefs because they serve you in some way? Or are they simply a part of you? Would you change jobs before giving up those principles?

Committed corporate values behave the same way. They say that the management team would rather be a small company with those values than a big company without them.

Many companies cannot imagine this depth of commitment. It would add to the credibility of the leaders in these companies if they acknowledged it and gave up the pretence, since the employees know the values are hollow already.

In companies that do choose to ground their business on deeply committed values as an end in themselves, they will be a guiding light to steer by.