How your core values can become corrupted

Portland, Maine - EASFAA 2008

One of the most important aspects of SHIFT’s agency culture is that nearly everything revolves around our core values in some way, from hiring to performance reviews to even vetting blog posts and social media updates. However, like anything, you can have too much of a good thing. One of the ways to provide a balanced perspective is to look at how your core values can be corrupted, how they can be twisted to work against you, rather than for you. We’re going to take a look at ours today as an example, but it’s an important exercise for you to do with your own corporate or personal core values.

As a refresher, the SHIFT 7 Core Values are:

  • Creative: can you think outside the box? Is there even a box?
  • Connected: it’s about what you know, who you know, and who knows you
  • Dedicated: the extra mile is familiar territory because you run it daily
  • Honorable: do the right thing, even when no one’s looking
  • Smart: you’re a student for life
  • Positive: you can roll with the punches
  • Ballsy: you’re the first to raise your hand and jump in

What happens when you have too much of a good thing? How might each of these values look when taken to extremes?

Creative: the extreme of creative is distracted, unable to focus, scattered. You may have a million ideas, but you can execute on none of them. Your creativity is a hindrance rather than a help.

Connected: the extreme of connected is desperation, the person at the party who is handing you a business card as soon as you shake hands, and is always looking over your shoulder to see if there’s someone more important to talk to. The over connected person values the number of connections rather than the strength of the connections.

Dedicated: the extreme of dedicated is stubborn overextension, the person who doesn’t know when to stop, the person who doesn’t know when to cut their losses, the person who burns him or herself out.

Honorable: the extreme of honorable is zealous righteousness, the person who feels that their way is the right way and the only way to do things. They brook no dissent, and can only see situations in black-and-white with no shades of gray whatsoever.

Smart: the extreme of smart is intellectual paralysis, the person who knows so much but can’t do anything with their knowledge. They get lost in a tangled maze of their own intellect, unable to stop theorizing and start doing.

Positive: the extreme of positive is cheerful insensitivity, the person who cannot see the reality around them. There is a time and place for a team cheerleader and to be encouraging, but there is also a time for acknowledgment of realities and empathy.

Ballsy: the extreme of ballsy is recklessness, taking risks that are unwarranted or being unnecessarily bold and going far beyond what it takes to get the job done.

Understanding how your core values can be corrupted is vitally important for several reasons. First and foremost, by if you know how your core values can go awry, you can understand better how to balance your team and create a workplace that is authentic to your values without becoming dogmatic and rigid.

Second, understanding the negatives of your core values will help you understand how someone else can take advantage of them, from a bad actor on your team to a competitor.

It can be uncomfortable to think about how something so important as core values can be taken advantage of, but it is an important exercise if you want them to work to their fullest potential for you.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology


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