Do core values really mean anything?

A key leadership distinction in the Love Your Business Method is creating your core values; and it's one of the first things that I work on with my coaching clients. However it sometimes seems like a futile exercise - we create a great set of core values and then ... nothing happens. They aren't discussed, they aren't displayed, they don't seem to make any difference.

I have to somewhat sheepishly admit, looking around our office walls I can't see our core values displayed anywhere. Like the plumber with the leaky tap I guess.

I have come across a great study that shows that core values, and some core values in particular, do make a difference. Strategy + Business wrote an article about a Booze Allen Hamilton / Aspen Institute study of 365 listed companies and their core values.

The key finding, and the one that I was very interested to read, was that successful companies are more likely to believe that social and environmental responsibility affect financial performance.

The study selected 'financial leaders' by asking respondents to self-identify financial leadership (exceptional business results) and verified this using financial statements. There were some very significant differences with these companies.

Among the confirmed financial leaders, 98% include ethical behaviour / integrity in their values statement, compared to 88% for the other companies. Far more of the financial leaders include commitment to employees (88% versus 68%), honesty / openness (85% versus 47%) and drive to succeed (68% versus 29%).

These values - integrity, honesty, commitment to employees - all come straight off the Love Your Business hymn book. It is these 'softer' values, rather than the more financial values - shareholder returns, profit etc - that actually correlate with higher financial performance.

That of course isn't to say that if you make these your core values you will be financially successful. However I think if you actually live these values, it’s more likely - and explicitly stating them isn't going to hurt.

I am still a big believer in the process, even if it does seem futile at times. Where it works, and businesses align on what they stand for, put it out for the world to see, and live by it, magic can happen.

Do your core values mean anything?