Are my core values really core?
I’ve been thinking about the concept of values, the core guiding principles or behaviors that ultimately measure or judge what we believe are really important in life. On an individual level, our values are the ethical traits that distinguish who we are as individuals, often embodied as a person’s character. In an organizational setting, the notion is more often represented by the company’s “culture” or abiding principals. Companies invest significant time, energy, and resources developing and codifying their core values and mission statements, frequently declaring them at the forefront of their literature, websites, and front lobbies. But are they truly core values? Do they stand the test of time, pressure, or trial?
It’s been said that difficult times reveal our character more than build our character. Usually, that maxim relates to individuals, and rightly so. But I think it could very much apply to an organization – perhaps even better. For example, as I survey the current landscape of our society, I have noticed that many businesses are really living up to long-held core values and stepping up to the plate during these difficult times. They are going to extraordinary lengths to take care of their employees or deliver on their commitments to customers. In other cases, however, in the face of unprecedented adversity, chinks showing in the armor and compromises are being revealed.
For example, one company that I know well, has long been widely respected for their “people come first” and “employees are our #1 asset” mantras. While they remain a great company, they seemingly have let outside pressures deteriorate their core values over the past few years. They seem to be willing to “sacrifice” long-held principles on the sacred altar of shareholder earnings and investor expectations. The current Covid-19 crisis has apparently hastened the departure from their core values resulting in furloughs and mandatory unpaid leave – despite having significant cash liquidity on hand. Are they compromising core values for short-term expediency? If so, at what ultimate price?
The same could be said on a family or personal level – many are finding strength in their bedrock principles and time-tested faith while others are abandoning them in the face of fear and uncertainty. I am no exception to these challenges and have found myself at times having to reflect and take stock of how I am navigating these uncertain waters. Am I standing strong on my own personal convictions and my faith? As a business, are we holding fast to the core values we founded our company on? If we waiver in the face of adversity, are they truly core to who we are? Perhaps it’s worth some time to reflect and take an honest look at whether we are staying true to our values or starting to waiver in times of adversity. “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good”. (1 Thessalonians 5:21). People are paying close attention and they will remember who compromised, and who held fast.