Guest Blog: The Value of Knowing Your Values

Guest Blog By Liz Lugt

For an organisation to maximise its success, it needs to be both smart AND healthy.  Smart means having a great product or service that meets a felt need, a watertight marketing plan, a winning strategy, the finances to make it happen and harnessing the power of technology.  But to be healthy means to have clarity versus confusion, minimal politics, staff turnover and destructive conflict together with high morale, productivity and employee engagement.

Healthy organisations are those that have clarity and alignment around their vision, strategy and culture, not just at senior leadership level, but at every level throughout the organisation. Values  also come into their own when it comes to ramping up sentiments around inclusion and belonging.

A critical first step for an organisation to gain this clarity and alignment, is to know their core values and then to use these to drive behaviour at all levels throughout the organisation.  Core values are important as they:

  1. Provide the ultimate guide for employee behaviour and decision-making at all levels within a business, regardless of what that business does.
  2. Reduce the need for inefficient and demoralising micromanagement as they provide the boundaries within which your employees can operate.  They no longer need to run every decision and action past their manager.
  3. Define a company’s personality and so uniquely set it apart from its competitors.
  4. Make recruitment easier and more effective as you know the qualities you are looking for in your employees.
  5. Help an organisation attract the right clients and equally, repel the wrong ones.  E.g. clients that value collaboration will look to do business with an organisation that builds its culture around collaboration.

Now, I want to tell you something controversial…an organisation should have no more than 2 – 3 core values.  Yes, no more than 2 – 3!  Any more than this makes it impossible for you and your people to stick to all of them all the time.  And failing to do so simply leads to cynicism, both within and outside the organisation.

A value is only core if it:

  1. Lies at the heart of the organisation’s identity.
  2. Defines its personality.
  3. Is inherent / natural for the organisation.
  4. Always existed.
  5. Differentiates the organisation.

AND…the organisation is prepared to be punished for sticking to it.  That might mean losing a client or even a star employee if not doing so meant the organisation was unable to live out a value it says is core to who they are.

We recently helped a client to identify the values that met this criteria for their business and this is the process we followed:

  1. Establish the values pool. 

With no names mentioned, we identified employees, past or present, that reflect what is best about the business. We then put the behaviours of those employees that made us identify them in the first place, into the values pool. We also considered the behaviours of those employees, past or present with no names mentioned, who don’t seem a good fit, who might even cause frustration in those who work with them. Flipping the negative behaviour into a positive one, we added the behaviours to our pool. The last addition to the values pool were those behaviours exhibited by the senior leadership team when it is at its best!

2. Identify the values themes.

Step two was to identify the repetitive themes coming out of the pool. This step always takes me by surprise…you can go from a hefty list of behaviours in the pool and narrow it down to 7 or 8 themes. By the very nature of core values, they will keep coming up again and again and very quickly rise to the surface.

3. Stress test each theme.

The next step was to then stress test each theme to see if it passed ALL the criteria of a core value, i.e. does it really lie at the heart of the organisation’s identity? Can we truly say it defines our personality? Is it something that is inherent and natural for us? etc.  And if it failed one of the criteria, it failed and didn’t make our final cut. Remember, you want to get down to only 2 or 3 core values in the end. And we only want values that are truly core and not merely aspirational or ‘nice to have’.

4. Describe the value.

Once the final two or three themes had been identified, we then described each value. This doesn’t mean wordsmithing your values so they make a nice catchy slogan, but it means putting the value into your own organisation’s language in such a way that you and your people can truly OWN them.

5. Define the value in action.

Our final step was to then take our two to three values, nicely described in our own words, and clarified what each one looked like in action. This step is important because values are behaviours and your people need to know exactly what is expected of them when it comes to these all too important behaviours.

Sounds simple, yes.  Is it easy, no.  It can get messy.  But press through, the value of knowing your values cannot be underestimated!

Finally, don’t just KNOW your core values, live them…use them every day in everything you do.  In how you lead, recruit, manage, reward, train, strategise, market, make decisions, etc. The price of confusion, politics, staff turnover, destructive conflict, low morale, productivity and employee engagement is just too high not to.


Liz is a member of Patrick Lencioni’s international consulting firm, the Table Group’s, CAPA Pro membership network and the Professional Speaking Association.  She is also an authorised partner of Wiley’s Everything DiSC and Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team brands and the author and creator of the online personal finance course, Roadmap to Financial Freedom.

In-person and virtually, Liz has worked with leaders and teams in the United Kingdom, Europe, Africa, the US, Canada and Asia.

For more, go to

How To Hire For Value Fit

By Inge Woudstra

We recently wrote that company values need to be more than a statement – they need to be lived.

Once a company has a set of values that are lived by its people, we want to make sure that new people also fit with those values. In other words,  we want to make sure they are happy to align their personal values with those of our organisation.

But how do we make sure we select for value fit? Values are quite intangible, and asking someone for their values in a job interview may not reveal much. It becomes even more complicated when we realise that we are looking to widen our diversity, rather than select clones of those already in our organisation.

Yet, values are vital when selecting a candidate. Skills can be developed and knowledge can be attained. However, values are a more constant factor in someone’s personality and when values don’t align people will be less likely to be themselves and flourish in our organisation.
Below are five ways to help us recruit for company values.

  1. Hire for culture add rather than culture fit

When we say we are looking for a good fit with the values of our organisation there is a real risk that we are looking for people just like us. After all, we would expect the values of those who are like us to align with our values. So, when we are looking to bring in diverse thinking, and people who challenge our perspectives, we need to rethink the words ‘fit’ and ‘alignment’, and replace them by ‘add’. Consider including ‘culture add‘ as a selection criterion.   Then, in an interview, ask a candidate how they would add to the values and goals of your organisation.

  1. Talk about values and how you live them

When we talk about our values, candidates get a chance to hear what’s important to us. So, we need to find ways to talk about our values in the interview process, and include ways to showcase how we operationalise them.
For instance, talk about how inclusion and belonging are important values for you. Then share how, for this reason, you give every new employee a buddy, invite them to employee resource groups, have a ‘slack’ channel and run regular pulse check surveys. Tell them how the CEO also checks in with new employees 4-6 weeks after joining to listen to the experience of the new hire – and anything else that shows the significance of any particular organisational value.

  1. Build your interview questions around values

Once you have talked about what’s important to you, and how your values are lived in practice, ask a question around that.
For example, say ‘We respect work life balance, so we allow people to choose their own working hours. When you are leading a team, how do you make sure people feel their work life boundaries are respected? How would you still know they are pulling their weight?’

  1. Look for the opposite

Review your company values and consider the opposite. Then look for those candidates who show they behave in a way that doesn’t align with your values.
For example, your value may be ‘Teamwork’. The opposite might be competitiveness. Design a role play, case study or group conversation and look for which candidates show – unhelpful – competitive behaviour.

  1. Listen out for what they know about you and what they ask

Find out what the candidate knows about your company and what attracted them. If they talk about team culture, company ethos and values, that is an indication that your culture resonates with them, rather than just looking for the next role.

The same can be learned from the questions they ask. If their questions are focussed on logistical and practical details only, this may be a red flag. If their questions are about team culture, company culture and mission and how they could best help to contribute to that, that is an indication that aligning with the company value is important to them.

Hiring for value alignment ensures a good culture fit while allowing for diversity in the candidate pool.  This is particularly helpful when inclusion and belonging are strong organisational values – and they often are.  It’s easy to find candidates who are keen to be inclusive and want to contribute to the business with their own experiences and identity (thus, in alignment with the values of inclusion and belonging).  Doing so widens the pool of candidates and also attracts people who don’t look, sound or behave like those already in the organisation.

Harmonising personal values with those of the organisation

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

There are those who say bringing your whole self to work is the answer to developing an inclusive work environment and to creating a sense of belonging.

There are others who say, if you bring your whole self to work you’re likely to step on someone else’s right to bring their whole self to work.

How to reconcile these opposing views

Bringing your whole self to work is important.  We don’t want a work environment where a mother has to pretend she has no children, or older people have to pretend they’re younger.  We don’t want a work environment where queer people have to disguise the gender or name of their partners and where black people have to look, talk, or dress like white people do.  This is covering and covering is not only bad for us as human beings, but also for our professional contribution.

When we talk about bringing our whole self to work, what we mean is understanding our personal values; recognising what’s important to us, what motivates us,  our preferred working style and how all this can clash with someone else’s personal values.

Understanding this is one thing but how do we know where to draw that line between my personal values and those of others or, indeed, those of the company?

One way to address this is – as some suggest – to separate out the ‘personal’ whole self and the ‘professional’ whole self.  For example, one article suggest that we leave behind our religious beliefs, our sexual attractions to colleagues, our strong political views, our fears and self-doubts – and the list goes on.  The problem with this suggestion, however well-intentioned it may be, is that we cannot separate out the one part of who we are from another.  If we did, we would be robots.  Companies with a culture that demands assimilation forget that they employ human beings, not the Borg.

So my suggestion is hopefully a bit simpler.  I propose that we follow 2 rules when we want to bring our whole selves to work:

  1. Align personal values to those of the organisation, and
  2. Live and let live.

Align your values

Before we accept any job, we tend to explore what the organisation stands for: its purpose, its vision, its values.  It would be rare to take up a position with a company whose values we dislike or disagree with (assuming the company’s values are genuine and well thought out – the topic of a previous post you can read here).  If we have done our job, it shouldn’t be that difficult to align our personal values with those of the organisation.  In fact, whenever we want to bring our whole self to work, be it our sexuality or political view, we should use the company values as our compass to gauge how welcome this particular aspect of who we are would be in the workplace.  If in doubt, leave it out.

In this way, company values are a crucial guide to how much of ourselves we ought to bring to work.  As long as we can align ourselves with the values of the company, we should be fine to be ourselves.  And on the occasion when personal values heavily clash with those of the organisation, one might have to leave and find work at another company whose values are more closely aligned with one’s own.

Live and let live

This guidance is useful not only in determining how much of ourselves we should be able to share in the workplace, but also as general guidance for a considerate, fulfilled life.  It is simply this:  enjoy yourself, be yourself and share yourself as much as you like, so long as none of that imposes on the rights of others to do the same.

Here’s an example: your boss works erratic hours.  She likes to be at her desk early and sometimes emails you very late at night or on the weekend.  You like to keep regular hours and boundaries between work and personal life. But you feel that your boss’ erratic schedule and late-night emails impinge on your preference not to be imposed on outside work hours.  What should your boss do?  Live and let live.

She should work in a way that suits her best (early mornings, late evenings, weekends, if she likes).  She should understand, however, that, while her personal preference works for her, it might not for others and there should be no expectation, therefore, that others will work on a similar schedule.  As it is, your boss knows this and clarifies that, while she may send you an email at an unsuitable time, she does not expect you to respond to it until a more convenient time for you (i.e. during your working hours).

So next time you are unsure whether you’re oversharing or overstepping that invisible line ask yourself: (1) will my behaviour be consistent with the culture of the organisation? and (2) will my actions impede on other people’s rights to bring their whole selves to work?  and if the answer is ‘yes’, do reconsider.

Active Voice: Five tips on how to bring your whole self to work

Everyone tells us we ought to be our authentic selves at work, but what does this mean and how do we do this?  In this Active Voice post, we offer you five tips on how to bring your whole self to work in a way that pays dividends.

  1. Find out who you really are

The first question to answer is how you want to show up.  What do you want people to say about you when you’re not in the room?  What do you want to be known for?  These questions are part of each one of our journey’s to authenticity and once we know the answers and are comfortable with them, it will be that much easier for us to become ourselves wherever we are.

  1. See them for who they are

If you want others to let you be you, why not start with affording the same courtesy to them?  Listen to them attentively, without interruption and with curiosity.  Try to understand and see the person behind the professional façade and let them know that you understand them, by thanking them for sharing their true selves.  Behaviour begets behaviour and the beauty of it is that you’re in control.

  1. Prioritise EQ

Don’t believe them when they say IQ is more important than EQ.  Study after study shows that successful, well-liked people are highly emotionally intelligent (and there are also plenty of studies that show that we only need to be sufficiently intelligent to succeed, not highly intelligent).  If you work on developing your emotional intelligence, you’ll become more self-aware and socially aware.  You will feel more comfortable with who you are and how to show up.  You’ll feel more comfortable owning the things that previously made you cringe about yourself and feel comfortable in your own skin.

  1. Promote the idea of collective intelligence

Team work is important to the success of a business.  Diverse teams that can leverage the unique contribution of each member of that team – the team’s collective intelligence – will be even more successful.  If you understand this and promote this at work, you will be encouraging a culture that values and welcomes individuality and diverse thinking – a culture in which individual thinkers thrive for the benefit and success of the entire team.

  1. If you fall, get back up

None of this is a science so expect to make mistakes.  Expect to overshare, to offend, to misstep.  And learn from it all.  Don’t give up being vulnerable because someone made fun of your propensity for tears whenever your emotions are stirred.  Don’t hide the fact that you’re the first one in your family to have gone to university because everyone else comes from generations of engineers and lawyers.  Don’t start pretending you like to play golf even if that means you’re missing out on a client bonding session.  Instead do something about it!  Organise a client event around something you like to do.  And those clients who share your dislike of golf will be grateful to you

Personal Values in Leadership: How We Show Up as Leaders

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

We often forget what it’s like to be human when we run a team, a department or even an organisation.  By the time we get to the top, we have transitioned in so many ways that it may be difficult to remember how we want to show up as a leader.  Yet there is no better time to truly be yourself than when you step into the role of leadership.

In my 30-year-long career I have learned that the more autonomy you allow others, the better the results for everyone.  The more you impinge on their freedom to be who they are (within reason),  the less you get in return – from their loyalty to their desire to do their best.  The more you respect people as capable of intelligent thought and contribution, the more you tend to experience this type of contribution from them.

I had the privilege of lunching with Dr. Anthony Howard and a few other thinkers the other day.  Anthony is a remarkable man whose quest in life (paraphrased) is to infuse humanity into business, as he details in his book humanise.  In addition to many other morsels of wisdom that Anthony imparted on that day, he reminded us of the distinction between leaders who are Diminishers and those who are Multipliers (as more fully described in the book Multipliers by Liz Wiseman).


Simply put, these are leaders who believe they are the smartest person in the room and lead from the position of singular knowledge.  These leaders are excellent at telling others exactly what to do and how to get it done.  And this does sometimes deliver the results that they intend.  But it fails to tap into others’ experience.  This approach doesn’t leave much space for creativity, flexibility, or autonomy.  It doesn’t invite diverse insights and often ignores our individual capacity to think for ourselves.


Multipliers are people who make others feel smart.  They lead by motivating and engaging others to get the task done.  They encourage, guide and facilitate.  They listen, explain and support.  Above all, they believe in the human spirit and our strength to think and solve for ourselves.   And the results of success for this type of leadership are astounding.

(This type of leadership is also a facet of what I call Inclusive Leadership.)

People want to be respected as human beings.  They want work to be a fulfilling and engaging activity.  They want to know how they contribute to the ultimate success of the team and the business, and they want to learn, develop and grow.

If we as leaders value and honour these needs, we will, in turn benefit from people’s finest thinking. And while it sounds like a simple thing to do, it rarely is.  Motivating others can be a challenge in and of itself, but if you are the kind of leader who values others as human beings and focuses on delivering on this personal value, it will be a worthwhile and fruitful pursuit for everyone involved.

The Importance of Values

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

Values are of course the first indication of a company’s culture.  They give a new starter or business partner a good indication of what the company stands for and what life within might be like.  Values also provide a sense of direction for those who are already working there, reliably guiding their behaviours and actions.

If done properly, they can even reduce stress.

How Core Values Reduce Stress
April is Stress Awareness Month.  This year’s Stress Awareness Month theme is Community.  Community represents a sense of belonging and connection for people – a sense of being accepted and supported.  We know that feeling connected is good for our mental and physical health.  Those who feel part of a community have fewer mental health problems and are generally happier.

Company values can provide that sense of belonging by giving people certainty around the cultural framework of shared values.  Having shared values is key to any sense of community, within or outside the workplace. Colleagues interacting with each other within the framework of values they all share provides that sense of connection that is so important for our mental health and the reduction of stress.

Espoused or Lived Values?
Of course, the benefits we gain from our shared values and sense of community can only be realised when we actually live those values.  If the values are simply disconnected statements on a company website or words appearing in a recruitment prospectus or the office wall (or screen background), they will provide very little benefit.

The challenge is to know whether core values are truly lived or are mere intentions.  It’s important to know how aligned employees are with the stated values or whether they in fact have very different ideas of what is important to them and the organisation.  Because, if values are taken for granted or seen as lofty words that don’t appear to reflect the reality of the workplace, they can cause as much damage to the culture as lived values can support it.

One way to find out is to undertake a values audit, to check out how espoused values – for example around inclusivity – are incorporated into lived values.

Inclusion Diagnostic
We do this with our Inclusion Diagnostic – an audit that looks at the gaps in perception and behaviour between the company’s intent to be inclusive and its ability to deliver on this value.

This exercise can be very revealing (see Inclusion Diagnostic case study) by bringing out illuminating – and often uncomfortable – insights that often point to the obstacles in culture that stand between living the espoused values.  Once these obstacles become evident, it is relatively easy to develop a concrete action plan that helps the organisation close those gaps and ensure that its espoused values are indeed lived by those who set the tone for the team’s culture.

Walking the Walk
As the quote at the beginning of this newsletter implies, work culture trumps great business acumen. Getting the culture right is crucial, and the starting point to doing so is a set of organisational core values that are lived by leaders, managers and team members. The lived core values of an organisation – the sum of the behaviours of everyone within it – are far more important than the espoused values, however well they are communicated.  Getting this right will take you a long way towards becoming more inclusive – and that has got to be on everyone’s agenda.

Take a moment to let us know about the values in your organisation by answering 3 short questions in our poll.

If you would like to conduct a values audit or an Inclusion Diagnostic in your organisation, please reach out.

Do we really need more #breakthebias campaigns?

By Suzanne Bird

There’s no doubt about it:  we have come a long way.

On closer examination, however, it’s easy to spot the myriad lingering prejudices against women. Direct discrimination might be less prevalent and less overt today than thirty years ago (thanks in part to movements such as #metoo) but how much have attitudes to women really changed? I have been thinking about some recent news stories as examples of what it’s like to be a woman today.

Nazanin and the online trolls
Last week’s news of the release of two long-term hostages from Iran should have been cause for unequivocal celebration in the UK. However, online trolls have savaged Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman, for a perceived ‘lack of gratitude’ for her release. It’s not hard to identify some of the racist and sexist biases at play here, objecting to a woman speaking out and deciding that she is not sufficiently grateful for (finally) being released. I was personally shocked by the Twitter backlash, and in a scathing article for the Guardian, Marina Hyde denounces the trolls who were incensed by Nazanin daring to say that she should have been released six years ago. I wonder whether a man would have had this kind of response if he had expressed a similar view?

More pressure to be perfect
A recent teenage wellbeing survey from Greater Manchester-based charity #BeeWell struck a chord with me, especially as a mother. The results contain some discouraging data about what it’s like to be a teenager today, particularly if you’re not a boy. BBC Education reported on the survey with a headline that sums this up: ‘Girls face more pressure to be a perfect teenager’. It really made me wonder: why do girls – and, we find, many women – feel the need to be ‘perfect’? Why do we feel we have to try harder than our male peers?  What is it going to take for girls and women to feel we are good enough as we are – in the way many men do?

Thankfully, some things do change. It was particularly exciting to watch this year’s final of the BBC reality TV show The Apprentice with my teenage stepdaughter. The finalists competing for Lord Sugar’s £250,000 business investment were, for the first time, both women. The winner was former bank manager Harpreet Kaur, who said: ‘I loved that it was an all-female final because I love empowering women, but I also feel we need to delete these titles out there in business. If you can set your eyes on something and you’re going to make a success of yourself, go for it. It doesn’t matter what gender you are.’

It seems that things have progressed in the past few decades; I’m pleased that our daughters don’t doubt their own abilities or their right to be heard and to succeed in their chosen careers.  But the path is still not always easy and there remains much work to do in mitigating bias against many groups, including women.  In other words, despite the good progress that we have made, there’s plenty of evidence that campaigns like #breakthebias still have their place and will continue to be relevant for a while longer.

If you would like help with addressing bias in behaviour or systems at work, contact us.

5 Tips to Help You Attract Candidates for Diversity

By Inge Woudstra

Our way of seeing the world creeps into everything we do – including recruitment.  This may be a problem if we want to attract a vibrant, more diverse pool of candidates rather than those who are just like us.  The stories we hear from our clients confirm this: many companies tell us that the CVs they receive don’t reflect the diverse society we live in. They quickly tend to realise that they need to broaden their recruitment funnel, but they don’t necessarily know how.

Let me share with you 5 tips to help you attract candidates for diversity.  These are changes we recommended to our clients to reduce bias in the attraction process.  Once implemented, these changes make all the difference.

  1. Reach out to those you know in your target group
One company was keen to recruit recent female graduates with a STEM background. They visited Women in STEM events and STEM conferences and advertised at women’s engineering associations. However, none of that worked. Our advice to them was to find a target group that already knows them and understands them. So they contacted the women’s network at their local university and asked them to advertise their vacancies. This had a massive impact on applications.
  1. Communicate what you offer applicants
It’s important to make it clear why you are an attractive employer for your target group. One company I worked with offered internships for STEM students at their local university. They added a new webpage, advertising the same internship using words that they knew were more attractive to women (and no less attractive to men), targeting female STEM students. They added a special internship category, naming it ‘women’s graduate internship’, and showcased their D&I achievements and desire to develop a better gender balance. They also highlighted the learning support available and focussed the job description on the impact of their work on society.
  1. Show them what it’s like to work there
Another way to attract candidates with diverse backgrounds is to make it easier to get to know your company and find out what it’s like to work there.

Another company I worked with started offering informal ‘meet the employer’ coffee mornings.

They also added shorter internships at an earlier stage in a student’s career, creating new opportunities to get to know the company and the business. On the internship webpage, they invited people to get in touch with them for an informal chat if they had any questions. They found that potential female candidates took up that offer and whilst on the call, the recruiter would take the opportunity to provide positive feedback and encouragement to candidates who doubted they would meet the application requirements.  The recruiter reassured them, taking the opportunity to share some ways to highlight their experience and qualifications during the application process.

Later on, the company also added an informal tour to the application process, so that candidates would have a chance to meet the team and ask questions.

  1. Build relationships with your target group
A great way to build a more diverse network of candidates is to maintain a relationship with them after the first meeting. For example, once your organisation’s recruiter has met a potential candidate from their specific target group (for instance at a university event, one of your own coffee mornings or at a short 1-week internship), make it a point to keep in touch and show an interest in their further development. When the individual is ready to graduate, you could then reach out and invite them to consider your organisation for their future career.
  1. Support your new recruits
Attraction is half the story, of course. Retention is the bigger challenge. So one of our clients supported their new joiners by teaming them up with a buddy, and introduced them to a peer of similar background or identity to support them further.

In addition, team managers were actively trained in managing more diverse teams. This helped raise awareness of the challenges that candidates from underrepresented backgrounds tend to encounter when they start work, and how starting work may be different from the managers’ own prior experience.

Lessons learned
Having implemented these changes, one of our clients shared this lightbulb moment: ‘I have realised that attracting a wider range of candidates is the same as attracting new clients. You have to network, build relationships and impress them. The key thing I learned was that – just as with attracting clients – you need to keep your attention on it all the time, the moment you focus on something else, you will lose out on diversity of candidates again.’

As with many other biases that creep into processes, the most important part is to become aware of them and then to come up with different ways to address them.  This involves thinking about who you wish to attract and figuring out why you have been unsuccessful in doing so.

If you would like us to help you review your recruitment practices and give you a few easily implementable tips that will change your recruitment process,  let us know.  We will be delighted to help as much or as little as you want.