We hear lots of companies and corporate bodies talking about their values and how important it is for their staff to live them, but what do they actually mean? And does it matter?
I guess to begin to answer those questions it’s interesting to look at our own personal values, how we develop them and their importance. I’ve thought long and hard about my values; I hold them very dear, often wear them on my sleeve and all decisions in my life are very much made with my values rather than cold rationality or logic in mind.
My Mum and Dad obviously shaped who I am and what I hold dear in so many ways. They taught me kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity of spirit, they taught me to love and be gentle with animals, they showed me the beauty of gardens and how to grow flowers, fruit and vegetables. They taught me to be independent and strong but to cherish the love and support of friends and family. They showed me that possessions weren’t what we should seek, rather learning, joy, experiences, memories.
They also instilled in me strongly that you have to work hard for what you want, earn trust and respect and love to be loved. All great lessons in life. I was very lucky. I couldn’t have asked for better tutors.
I was also very privileged in the schools I attended. They weren’t privileged schools, far from it but they opened up to me incredible experiences and wonderful friendships. My primary school was incredibly diverse, we embraced all cultures, celebrated every festival in every religion and welcomed all cultures. Our teachers were amazing people who saw their role as a vocation, they had strong beliefs and they shared them; I remember vividly one holding an assembly about the cruelty of the seal pup cull for the fur trade (not on the curriculum I suspect).
My secondary school had inspirational teachers too who not only exposed me to wonderful experiences in the classroom but brought the world to life for me. I still can’t quite believe I stood on top of the Berlin Wall. I broke my heart in Auschwitz, I was humbled by the students and others who fought for the revolution in Hungary, I was horrified by the cruelty of humanity and lifted up by the strength of those who stood up to it.
My sixth form was a crazy, wonderful place where I was so happy. I met fabulous people who changed my life and continue to influence it. (I won’t name them as they may get shy but they need to know I love them.) Sadly, one of the most wonderful men I’ve ever met and one of my greatest friends is no longer with us but he is always in my thoughts and still inspires me each and every day.
I’ve also learned many important lessons from my friends, my brother’s friends and my work colleagues that have helped me to realise what I now know is important.
All of these people and all of these things have shaped my own personal values. They make me who I am so I believe they are massively important. They are my drive, my passion, my enthusiasm. If companies can harness this in their employees then they will truly reap the benefits. So I say good luck, keep trying, try your hardest because this is what is important.