The last time you ventured out to buy a new car did you just take the first one you saw at the price the toothy salesman suggested?
I am positive that you didn't. You shopped around because you wanted to get a car that matched your values. Whether those values are cost, colour, cuteness or the potential for calamity, you recognise them. If you didn't, how could you make an informed choice?
You understand the concept of its value to you and its value in getting you where you need to go. Some of those values are subconscious and some are bourn through experience and education.
You understand that even though that Peugeot is £500 cheaper, it's a horrific shade of puce, and it has none of the extras found in the more expensive Mitsubishi. Now, of course, the Honda is the same price and has comparable features to the Mitsubishi, but it is a nice mauve colour, which matches your eyes and accessories!
You are confident in your choice of car because you understand your values and their worth in making good decisions. Do you apply the same concept of personal values to making decisions in your working life?
Strangely, few of us do. If we don't channel the values that are important to us we make poor decisions.
Values are personal and cannot be imported successfully. They must be ours alone. Yet, they can also form a powerful language for communication if applied skilfully.
Are you considering applying for that promotion? Sounds great, more money and the person you would be replacing seems happy enough. Thing is, she might also really like the Peugeot in all it's puce perfection. It's not the role but your desire to fulfil it that counts.
Attempts at corporate cookie-cutter values fail because they are based upon the premise that we all value the same things. We don't.
This is why hand-me-down business values tend to fail so miserably in achieving unity and motivation among a workforce. They try to enforce a set of rules rather than establish a line of credit between personal values and corporate vision.
Ok, of course, your corporate values are cleverly designed to produce a sense of togetherness in a struggle that benefits mankind, if we all just adopt this philosophy of respect, honesty… blah, blah.
Aspirational values are all very well, but it is akin to buying a speedboat in the desert on the basis that your next-door neighbour has a penchant for pairs of animals, is named Noah and predicts a little rain. You might be waiting a long time for the payback, and while you do, you are forgoing all that golden sunshine.
Imposed values tend to limit rather than inspire because they corrupt personal values and apply assumed limitations. Unity is not about everyone having the same values - it is about each person being trusted to fulfil a role to a common purpose.
Does it matter that some do it for pride, others for financial gain and some with a beneficent regard for others? Respect each person to fulfil a common vision in a way that fulfils personal values and you will be rewarded with a unity of purpose that is far more powerful than a communistic ideal.
Trust your workforce and yourselves. Trust and encourage the values of each person to make good decisions. Do you want conscriptees fighting a war in some obscure country for reasons they don't believe in, just biding time until the next ceasefire? No, you want generals fighting a just cause, impatient to win a battle for the common good.
I am a pacifist, but this is one war I can salute.