June 2019 Business Bulletin

Page 40


Do we value values?

by Neil McLennan,

director of leadership programmes, University of Aberdeen

IN 2013 Kevin Murphy and I published Determined to Succeed on the back of feeling that university had not really prepared us with the skills for the working world. The book looked at the key skills of people across Scotland who were at the top of their industry. The success of that book saw us publish The Art of Achievement in 2014. With similar case study format, the book not only looked at current skills but gazed into future skills in various sectors. Much has changed since then. For one, we now see universities embedding skills in course design, teaching and assessment. Secondly, mindsets changed on writing the second book. It soon became apparent that values were at the heart of the success of key leaders across various sectors. That led to a third publication, Speaking of Values (Fossey, McLennan & Walsh, 2016), which explored the individual and organisational values of leaders. Since publishing Speaking of Values we have been asked to input to a number of organisation’s values formation. In April of this year I took part in a University of Aberdeen business breakfast, speaking on the topic. Organisations often spend much time on their vision and aims, however 40.

less time on considering values. Consideration and focus on all three can bring great rewards. Before presenting, I wanted to get a sense of the current status of values among North-east businesses. A short questionnaire helped provoke some deeper discussions on the morning. The findings were quite revealing. We gleaned an insight into 48 organisations from the questionnaire. Returns were equally balanced male:female; from businesses under 10 employees to large corporates; and from a broad range of experiences from middle management to senior executive. In total, 77% of respondents thought values were visible daily in business, with 88% responding visibility in their specific business. Furthermore, 74% noted that their business had explicit values. However, a good number could not remember them; 45% said they did not know how often they were reviewed; and over a third said the values were identified by management only. Just over a tenth said that company values were chosen by one person and 29% suggested that no theory was used in forming company values. ‘Honesty’,

‘respect’ and ‘integrity’ were shared as common company values however, it was clear that many organisational ‘value statements’ mixed up values, behaviours, attributes and goals. The latter regularly slipped into value statements. ‘Excellence’ was often used but appeared under-critiqued. In the open responses there were some clear messages that values are only important if profits are met. However, during the business breakfast there was vibrant discussion on Generation-Y and Generation-Z employees. ‘Self-indulgence’ came through frequently as personal and organisational values. However, it was felt new generation employees desired work in ethical organisations. One might say, whatever age, we place value on values. However, are they valued enough within business? It seems values is an area for further study and consideration. We need to get more people Speaking Of Values.

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