Values – Myths, Misunderstandings and the Truth

core valuesHave you noticed that the floodgates have opened and articles about Values are pouring down on us like rain from a Texas thunderstorm. Why now? Perhaps it’s the culmination of anger and frustration impacting all of society over our pathetic lapses. It stretches from Congress and the Administration, to Wall Street and the banking industry, and to corporate America’s seemingly endless stream of misdeeds and scandals. It’s all too much. We’re sick of it.

There is a longing in America, born of our hunger for integrity – in our lives and in our institutions. We’re crying for decency. We want to wake up in the morning, eager to go to meaningful jobs in companies led by honorable people who are not driven solely by unbridled greed. We want to trust Congress to represent all the people and not be blinded to reason by some unbending ideology that condemns compromise as weakness.

And so in our desperate quest for sanity, and decency, and dignity we turn to Values as the path to salvation. And most of the conversations talk about having Values versus not having them.

There’s just one problem. That’s not how Values work. Values are inherently neither good nor evil. They’re simply reflective of every individual’s own beliefs, and the collective beliefs of organizations. Osama bin Laden had values. The Boston bombers had values. They just happened to be values that caused them to want to destroy our country. Much has been written about the belief that we have forgotten our Values, or that we are suddenly without any Values. Not true. Many of us have simply chosen to have different Values, Values that may conflict with what is in the best interest of the vast majority of society. And those institutions that have different Values have developed and honed their Brands to reflect those Values.

Take the NRA for example. Instead of coming to the table to have a meaningful discussion about how to establish intelligent background checks as a way to help (not completely solve, just help) prevent having guns fall into the hands of convicted felons and mentally disturbed people, a position favored by eighty per cent of the American public (and once favored by the NRA itself), they have further honed their Brand message and ramped up their rhetoric to transform the issue of safety to one of freedom itself. And once again, they have outsmarted the members of Congress who favor new gun safety legislation. Like it or not, it’s damn smart Brand strategy. And it’s reflective of the NRA’s Core Values.

The issue we face is not one whether we have Values or we don’t have Values. We all have Values. Those Values are given life through our actions. The question is about WHAT Values we want to live as a society, as a company and as individuals.

We all have the right to our make our own personal choices. What are your Values? And whatever they are, prove it by living them.

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