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How much are your values worth?

 In Insights, Life decisions, Not for profit, People decisions, Realizer Blog

Funny word, values.

On one hand, it’s about the things we hold dearest, and our moral principles. On the other hand it can also have a meaning about money and the value of things.

So I was asking myself, how much are your values worth? Do you put your money where your morals are? What about your company, does it use values as well as financials to make decisions?

What are values worth to a company?

One area where money and morals meet is Conscious Capitalism. I was introduced to this recently and heard that companies which score well on ethical and moral grounds outperformed the stockmarket by 1000% over the last 15 years. What kind of companies are these? Well, we can look at Johnson and Johnson, which has its famous credo. And we can look at Zappos which has its recruitment policies, including their famous strategy of paying you $4000 to leave in your first 2 weeks (to make sure they only have people who really want to work there).

The crucial element to these examples isn’t just a correlation between stockmarket performance and values though. It’s about causation. Having worked with Johnson and Johnson personally, and studied Zappos, the key element is that their values really do drive their decision making.

Zappos defined their values with the express purpose of their values directly driving their recruitment, otherwise their values would be worthless. And Johnson and Johnson have made critical decisions using their credo. A global one was the Tylenol recall when a blackmailer poisoned bottles of their painkiller. They withdrew all their stock at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. They put customers first.

The opposite of these cases is much more familiar: companies which spend an age defining corporate values, and then never use them to make decisions.

What are values worth to individuals?

On a personal level, I’d venture that most people know their own values, but would struggle to put them down on a page. I’ve tried this myself and tried it with a CEO I work with, and it was harder than you might think. So, how do our values drive our own decisions if we aren’t totally clear on what they actually are?

Well, it turns out that a massive amount of the values that drive our behaviour and decisions is formed in our very early years and passed on by our parents. This is why most of us don’t murder people, although a surprisingly large amount of people do commit adultery and covet their neighbours’ property.

So, what are your values worth then?

Seems to me that while you get your values really early in your life, you don’t really value your values until the end.

Nurses that work in palliative care, before people die, note that the top 3 regrets of the dying are:

  1. I wish I’d lived a life true to myself, not the life expected by others
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings

At the close of your time on this planet, you are left suddenly realising you should have stood up for your own values more, thought about them more, written them down maybe. And definitely used them to make decisions about family, friends, work and your own life path.

Values are undervalued.

I don’t know exactly how much your values are worth, whether they make you happier or more wealthy. But I do know approximately how much they weigh. You may remember the film 21 grams. The title was based on research of Dr Duncan McDougall, who suggested that when people die, they lose 21 grams in weight, which is the weight of the soul leaving the body. And if it’s values that make us human, and values that give us a soul, then perhaps our values are a 21 gram weight we carry around with us from birth to death.

Posted by Rob Pyne.