Why values?

Picture of colourful pens - Courtesy of Michael Ambjorn

Richard Barrett's book Everything I Have Learned About ValuesEveryone has values, they are not only the source of our internal motivation and our decision-making but, as Richard Barrett explains in his new book, Everything I have learned about Values, they are the “energetic drivers of our aspirations and intentions”.

Perhaps that is what attracted me to working with values when I set out on my freelance journey after a long legal career. Values create energy, they stimulate connections between people and shared values in an organisation harness that energy and those connections to serve the highest purpose of that organisation.


What does that have to do with helping organisations improve their ethical cultures? That is easy! Have you ever tried to make an interesting presentation about a law? I have, more times than I would care to remember, because my “thing” as general counsel was an emphasis on preventative law. Get into too much detail about the fine points of contract law or the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and watch everyone’s eyes glaze over. So, I learned to ground our legal messages in values. When you enter into a contract with someone do you expect them to respect the contract? What values underpin that expectation?

What values do we share that would motivate us never to offer or accept a bribe? Who do you consider a role model and what values does that person represent? What does that have to do with conflicts of interest or gifts and entertainment policies?

These are questions that will engage any audience.

Why values?

I have done anti-bribery training everywhere from the boardroom to the purser’s office on-board a ship. I have discussed bribery and facilitation payments with people in many roles, such as maintenance engineers, sales and procurement people, factory workers, ships captains, managing directors, Board chairpersons, lawyers, HR staff, etc. and from many nationalities. THEY ALL SHARE ONE THING IN COMMON. Values. Maybe not exactly the same values. Maybe not the same interpretation of a value. But, everyone can talk about values.

That’s why I work with values.