Create value with values

The word "values" has gotten so much play in the business and political press that its meaning has become diluted and vague. We have lost track of what makes values such an important motivator—whether it is to compel people to perform at work or vote. In the business arena, values provide direction to employees when challenges or opportunities arise; motivate employees toward a higher goal; and build commitment to an organization with which employees can identify. In short, values enhance commitment, which, in turn, increases job satisfaction. Commitment and satisfaction drive productivity and attendance. Now these are concepts you can link to your bottom line.

Which values?

Go to almost any business's Web site and you will find generic values listed if you find them at all. Innovation, quality, teamwork, integrity—these are laudable values, but they lose meaning with overuse and ubiquity. To create real meaning in your workplace, ask yourself, "What values can my employees sink their teeth into?" Think about what is important to you, and then translate it to your business. For example, if family is important to you, link that value to respect and support for each other at work. Loyalty promotes the value of honest communication with each other and your customers. Humility and lack of pretension send the message that you need to focus on efficiency and cost cutting. Look to your family, friends, home and spiritual life for values that move you, and then bring those values to work. Define them in terms that can help employees make a ready link between values and action. And then monitor, measure and recognize their performances.

How values can fail you