Values hanging on a breakroom poster mean nothing

Communication. Respect. Integrity.

Quick question: which company do the above values represent?

Google? Facebook? Zappos? 

Try Enron.

Yes, the company that now represents anything BUT integrity once had that word in its core values.

Those values of communication, respect and integrity once hung on Enron breakroom wall posters, were displayed on employee screen savers and were taught in training classes. All while the company leaders were conducting massive fraud.

As author David Cottrell said of Enron in The Magic Question, “The values didn’t mean anything—the way they ran their company meant everything. It doesn’t matter what you say as an organization; what matters is what you do.”

There are literally hundreds of values you can choose for your credit union. Serve. Relationships. Teamwork. Hard work. Community. Trust. Honesty. Helpful. 

But none of those words matter if you don’t live them. As part of our brand workshops that help financial institutions create and refine their brand strategy, we discuss their values. One phrase we emphasize to the executives who are often determining those values is “you lead the values, but your employees must live the values.”

As you develop your credit union’s core values, remember these three principles:

  • Values take action—Your “say to do” ratio should be one to one. In other words, you can’t say your values mean one thing and then your staff does something else. If one of your values is “easy to do business with” and your loan approval process takes forever, then you are not living your values.
  • Values take definition—Too many times we put words in a PowerPoint presentation that look nice and pretty. But what do those words really mean? For example, community may mean one thing to you and something else to your employees. If helpful is one of your core values that doesn’t mean you approve a loan every single time someone requests it. Helping the consumer in some situations is saying no.
  • Values take examples—The more specific you are with your values the more clearly your employees can live them. Clarity wins every single time. When you have the opportunity let employees share examples of when they or their co-workers have exhibited a particular value. For example, if one of your core values is serve then at a team meeting allow coworkers to share illustrations about when one of their team members did an act of service. 

Here is an example of how our company made sure our values were more than just words. At On the Mark Strategies our three values are: educate, entertain and engage. But what does that really mean?

We defined each of those by saying “how we live it” (both externally and internally):

  • Educate—Teach clients new ideas. Grow internally through ongoing learning.
  • Entertain—Make clients laugh. Have fun with team members.
  • Engage—Get clients involved. Consistently express positivity and encouragement with each other.

During our weekly team meetings we carve out time for everyone to share an example of how a fellow co-worker lived one of those values. It encourages while also reinforces our values.

Values mean nothing. Unless you live them.

Mark Arnold

Mark Arnold

Mark Arnold is an acclaimed speaker, brand expert and strategic planner helping businesses such as credit unions and banks achieve their goals with strategic marketing insights and energized training. Mark ... Web: Details