The question which comes to my mind when people talk about values is where do they get them from?
So where do you get your values from? It is a question we seek to talk about at the North East Institute of Business Ethics (NIBE). We decided to set up NIBE to get people talking about business ethics and to help each other look at our values and the culture of businesses in the North East.
For me as a vicar I feel my values come from my faith but they are influenced also by discussion, experience and of course my upbringing. The challenge I think we have nowadays is to decide what shared values might be or ‘look like’.
I believe we are in a ‘confused.com’ moment. All around I see a discussion going on about what British values are as if they are different from French ones or South African ones. Are they?
The reason I talk about being in a ‘confused.com’ moment is that I think we are confused about what values we share and how we might live them out. I see contradictions all around me.
It’s hard to explain in a short article but an example might be Strictly Come Dancing. On the Saturday night we are told to tune in for the live results show on Sunday but how clear does the BBC make it that the results show is actually recorded immediately after the show on the Saturday night? So the BBC are twisting the truth. The culture is one in which not spelling out the truth is OK. Well is it? What kind of culture are we accepting?
My second question after “Where do you get your values from?” is “Do you live them out?”
Living out your values sets a culture (that’s not just the boss, although that’s a great start!) Now I don’t want to use a Christian example of living out ones values in this case but a hero of mine from the secular world.
Who is your hero or heroine? Mine is Stephen Gough (born 1959, the same year as me, so a good punk I hope), known as the Naked Rambler. Stephen is a former British Royal Marine. In 2003–04 he walked the length of Great Britain naked and again in 2005–06 but was arrested. He subsequently spent six years in prison.
He was involved with the public nudity advocacy group The Freedom to be Yourself. Oh if we could be ourselves! The reason he’s my hero and why I am writing about this in an article on Values and Culture is that he sticks to his principles.
He believes in what he is doing so much he is willing to go to prison for six years! Only if I could do that and only if businesses could stick to the values they set out.
My plea is stick to your principles and values and the culture we want will come about. Live the change you want to see. But before that may I suggest you first ask yourselves where you get your values.
The Rev Glyn Evans is Newcastle’s city centre chaplain and co-chair of the North East Institute of Business Ethics