Meme Partners | Demonstrating vs. Communicating Values
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21 Feb Demonstrating vs. Communicating Values

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There’s a lovely quote from Lewis Cass:

“People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do.”

This was the central theme of a workshop we ran last week, at the ‘Leading with Internal Communication’ conference in Melbourne.

We looked at how values capture what’s important to a team, in order to shape and unify decision-making and behaviour for the people within it. With a group of internal comms and org dev people, from private and public organisations, we explored the best approaches for agreeing those values and ultimately how internal communications can make them real in an organisation.

We had a spirited conversation about the best (and worst) ways to go about agreeing new values for any business. Our top tips were:

  1. Co-develop the values with staff
  2. Make sure the values are behavioural: ask “how will this value impact what our people actually do?”
  3. Focus on the values that differentiate you, not the ones that simply define your category
  4. Find on-brand expressions of your values: choose words or phrases that sound like you
  5. Make it easy to remember the values, with acronyms or mnemonics

Then we spent an hour or so talking about Internal Comms’ responsibility to demonstrate the values, versus merely communicate them – e.g. putting up a poster telling people that collaboration is a priority is a communication, but not a demonstration of that value.

Together we brainstormed a dozen ways to demonstrate each of the most frequent values, like:

  • Replacing one-way announcements with two-way dialogue (town hall meetings, social media, etc.) if one of your values is ‘collaboration’ or ‘teamwork’
  • Launching any new initiative with measurable targets, providing progress updates and committing to no spin, if you value ‘integrity’ or ‘accountability’
  • Celebrating experimentation (not only success) and exploring new comms channels, if one of your values is ‘innovation’ or ‘agility’


It turned out, of course, that each of the organisations represented in the room were working with very similar values and we agreed that differentiation comes mostly from how well we live the values, not which words we choose. After all, Tiger Airways and Qantas both list safety and reliability among their stated values.

Kate Messenger

Managing Director

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