Many organizations have mission and vision statements. Fewer have values statements. From a client service perspective, it's values that matter. It's great to know why you exist (mission) and where you want to go (vision), but it's defining who you are (values) that may mean the difference between delivering excellent client service or not.
Now what do we mean by values statements? In the July 2002 issue of Harvard Business Review, Patrick M. Lencioni shared an interesting story: "I once asked the CEO of a Fortune 500 networking company to tell me one of his firm's core values. 'A sense of urgency!' he replied without hesitation. 'So,' I asked, 'your employees take quick action and hit all their deadlines?' 'No,' he replied, 'they are complacent as hell, which is why we need to make urgency one of our core values.'"
Lencioni added, "That response reveals the confusion underlying many values initiatives. Far from being a core value, a sense of urgency didn't even exist in the organization. It was just an aspiration - a goal for the future."
If you have a core values statement, it may be time to revisit it to determine whether your core values are truly engrained in the organization or still aspirational. If you don't have a core values statement, then drafting one that truly reflects the current state with an eye toward success for the future can be a gratifying and important exercise. Your employees and your clients will be the big winners.
Both my current and my previous employer had core values statements, and each in their own way serves the organization well. One is more memorable; the other more inspirational. Both have a measure of aspiration to them - as well they should. It's all about trying to be better.