The Value of Values

By Gerard B. Sanvictores

First Published in Business World (10/29/2012)

When we say that something is valuable or “of value,” there is an assumption of some measure of worth to a person. This could be in either tangible (e.g., wealth and possessions) or intangible (e.g., relationships and sentiments) terms. Values, then, have an intrinsic goodness or use in and by themselves. People’s values shape their character. The same holds true for organizations.

More than 2,000 years ago, Chinese philosopher Confucius said, “To see what is right and not to do it is want of courage.” We fast forward to the 21st century and popular American leadership consultant Stephen Covey echoed the same sage advice: “Personal leadership is the process of keeping your vision and values before you, and aligning your life to be congruent with them.” In the span of two millennia, the message has not changed – values are universal, timeless and most importantly, they determine behavior.

This message should bring comfort to us in this modern world where competition and challenges abound. The corporate setting is rife with problems that may affect profitability, growth, human resources and image. Organizations with deeply embedded values are more likely to overcome such hurdles and adapt to changes in the world of business. When a company embraces a set of values – reflecting its core beliefs – then it is able to articulate almost effortlessly its vision, strategies, policies, plans and actions. Why? Because there is a common foundation or a basis that forms the corporate culture.

The importance of a system of shared values cannot be underestimated as it determines how things work and why they are done in an acceptable manner. Values provide day-to-day behavior that will essentially dictate a company’s success. It is a coping mechanism because values temper the changes in the environment, including market forces that affect an organization’s existence. Values are encapsulated in corporate traditions, rituals, and routines that show employees what kind of behavior or attitude is expected from them. Values eventually become enshrined in a company’s legacy that is passed from one generation to the next.

More often than not, values positively affect a corporation because they unite everyone towards achieving goals. However, there can be situations when the corporate culture can work against a company. Take for example the value of loyalty which can backfire when there are changes in management, strategy or business environment, such as in the case of mergers. Such situations call for change management that will work around conflicting values and try to meld them to benefit both entities.

Some of the common corporate values are: leadership, excellence, integrity, hard work, teamwork, honesty, innovation, trust, respect, pride, meritocracy, stewardship, humility, loyalty and dignity. The list can actually go on and on because these are simply words. What will make a value unique is in the manner by which it is lived. To illustrate, many organizations claim to be innovative but they will differ greatly in the way this is defined; it may refer to innovations in services, products, technology, attitude and so forth. In brief, it is up to an organization to define its values to claim them as their own.

In SGV & Co., the corporate culture has more or less been dominated by three core values since it was established 66 years ago. These are integrity, excellence and hard work which are emphasized to new employees, ingrained in the firm’s continuous education program and included in performance evaluations. Employees who ascribe consistently to these values learn quickly that they contribute significantly to the company’s reputation.

Ten years ago, when SGV became a member practice of Ernst & Young Global, both organizations took time to synchronize our value systems. While there may have been some differences, there were far more similarities that allowed for a smooth transition. In fact, the global organization eventually came up with a “values statement” that summed up our mutual beliefs and aspirations.

Our values statement defines who we are. It influences the way we work with each other, the way we serve our clients, and how we relate to our respective communities. Our values statement says that we are:

• People who demonstrate integrity, respect and teaming.
• People with energy, enthusiasm and the courage to lead.
• People who build relationships based on doing the right thing.

The first statement captures the most basic values that should be inherent in each of us. These are the building blocks of our behavior. The second statement is an articulation of how we must act when driven by our core values. The last statement captures the intended results of our actions.

Because the organization gives much importance to values, a program called the “Chairman’s Values Award” was launched by Ernst & Young in 2006. It was created to recognize and celebrate our people who bring their passion to work to make a positive impact. The program acknowledges how values underpin our collective goal to make a difference to those around us – coworkers, clients and the community – by bringing our values to life.

And how do we show our values at work? These are not necessarily grand or heroic efforts. They may be ordinary encounters like motivating and encouraging our staff members or welcoming new ideas that could drive positive change. Values show when one takes time to guide an anxious new recruit or find ways to improve the delivery of services. It could also just be a smile to brighten the day of work-weary peers.
In the past six years, there has been at least one (sometimes two) Filipinos who have been named as Chairman’s Values Award champions. It is a distinct honor to be named a country champion because only ten are selected from hundreds of nominations in the Asia-Pacific region. The region then chooses one overall champion who will be included in the chairman’s circle of global champions. Two champions from SGV have joined this elite circle. More importantly, the award is evidence that values indeed transcend geography and time, just as Confucius and Stephen Covey have already noted.

Mahatma Gandhi, whose stance on non-violence is a very clear expression of his personal values, communicates succinctly why values count. He said,” Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.”
And that is why values are truly valuable.

Gerard B. Sanvictores is an Assurance Partner and Head of Administration of SGV & Co.

This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinion expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.