Are a company’s values worth more than the paper they’re written on?

Hmm. Sometimes I get to pondering things – usually while I’m in my garden weeding. Sometimes the things I ponder can be of a serious nature. Here’s a case in point: I attended the recent Leadercast event which took the subject of becoming a “Beyond You leader” as its main theme. And that’s what has set me noodling this time.

You see, here at Phantom Screens we have a set of core values. You can read them here. Now, I happen to think they’re great. They are our North Star, our guiding light for us as a leadership team and for everyone in our employ. They percolate all that we do here.

It does beg the question though: if I, and/or our entire Phantom Leadership Team, met our untimely demise in a freak boating accident on the Fraser River (by way of example), what would happen to our company values? Would they die with us? Or are they truly “beyond us”?

Now the chance of our team all being on the same boat at the same time is not very likely – because frankly I dislike  water and avoid sea-going vessels at all costs. Back to my point – and I do have one, really I do.

Do our own values as individual people shape the core values of the corporation, or is it the other way around?

Now before you say it, I know that a corporation is an inanimate object. By its very nature it can’t hold values. But the values we have in place at Phantom Screens feel so intrinsic and so essential to what we do, that they feel much bigger than the people in our company.

Or bigger than me as CEO.

Which is what set me thinking. We put these values in place 20-odd years ago when we founded Phantom Screens. They are woven into the threads of our collective history. They matter to us.

So to my original “chicken and egg” conundrum… do our company’s values shape us as people or are they a reflection of our own values? Unfortunately, there’s not really a simple answer.

I think we can all agree that having corporate values is a good idea. In fact, I speak on this very topic for LeaderImpact. Most companies do state their corporate values yet often they only reside on a wall hanging in the corporate boardroom which is truly a missed opportunity. But thankfully, many organizations do live and breathe their values which help guide their corporation and its leaders and staff members on what’s expected of them.

But, will our company values survive beyond us? Are they so deep-rooted into Phantom Screens that those who will follow us be guided by them?

I honestly believe they will.

I believe our core values will live beyond us – even though they reflect what we believe as people – because they take us out of our own individuality and point us to a collective good.

What gives me this hope?

Because values shape who you hire, and if you hire people who align with your values, their intended purpose will live on infinitely, shaping the very essence of your company – long after the people who put them in place have gone.

And I’m sure this might be a shock to you – but we are not perfect. Sometimes we may behave in ways that don’t fit with our values until someone draws it to our attention.  Just this weekend I was contacted by a Phantom dealer of our Idaho Distributor. We had a very pleasant chat in which he took the time to “hold me accountable” to our stated values which had not matched his latest Phantom experience. I was and am grateful that he took the time to let us know where we had fallen short. Thank you Steve and David for making the call happen.

Intentions get buried. Boundaries get blurred. Dilemmas occur.

But because we’ve put these values in place – and collectively believe that they are the right way for us to run our business – they serve as a way to rein in our behavior and motivate us to strive to always do better.

Our core values are bigger than any one person. That’s the key to their survival.

I think I’ve said before that people tell me that Phantom Screens is different. It’s a special place to work – where people are truly valued. As one staff member said to me: “I love working here: there’s a certain something.”

And that’s because of our core values. They are what make our corporation different.

You might think that corporate values, mission statements and guiding principles are unnecessary.

But I’d have to disagree. So, contrary to public opinion, I’m okay if our entire Leadership Team all boards the same aircraft at the same time.

What do you think? Does your company have a set of core values? Do you think they make a difference? As always, I’d love to hear your views!