The People First Human Value Proposition is the life-giving source that supports the development of every derivative corporate value. It is of first order in the organic chain of value propositions, followed by a Customer Value Proposition and an Employee Value Proposition. Without these values, unethical behavior comes to rise. Every company needs a set of core values in order to maintain their philosophy and ethical standards.

We tell our clients that belief precedes behavior, philosophy precedes performance, and theory precedes practice. In other words, the practice of everything we do in business is the fruit of some philosophical root. Therefore, there is no such thing as a skill-set without a mind-set. Before we do something we must, of necessity, think something. Hence, we must first of all think about building a solid philosophical and ethical foundation that will undergird all value propositions concerning our internal and external customers.

Is it a good thing to have a solid Customer Value Proposition and an Employee Value Proposition? Of course! If you have a solid set of core values and you demonstrate ethical behavior, you will see your purpose partners go above and beyond to support your company. An Employee Value Proposition is a great way to create a bond between an employer and a new hire, but there’s an even better way to do that, which is to acknowledge that we already have a bond—the ten points of commonality in the Human Value Proposition—and that we celebrate that bond at our company.

Customer Value Propositions and Employee Value Propositions undoubtedly have their solid derivative value; however, if a leader establishes a hierarchy of order in a business strategy map, but fails to acknowledge that these propositions are derivative in nature, that leader is in danger of confusing the effect for the cause. I wholeheartedly affirm the value of these derivative value propositions, but I am simply asking this: How much more should we place value and ethics on that which supports and gives meaning to all the other values? Our understanding of what it means to be human is fundamental; if we regard customer satisfaction or even employee satisfaction as being superior, we build a business model on an inadequate foundation that lacks the capacity to fully tap the rich potential in all our purpose partners. While it may seem like the ethical thing to put your customers first, your purpose partners are going to be left in the dust and will follow that example. They are going to start putting other things first instead of the organization.

My assertion in this blog is that American companies don’t tap that potential because our leaders have not been taught how to truly engage people in ethics. We tell purpose partners to “Go out there and give them great customer service!” Yet I see so very many people who provide mechanical customer service; they’re not the least bit warm or genuine. There has not been a discussion of what is right or wrong or even what is ethical when dealing with a challenge. Without ethical behavior, your organization could falter.

A cashier drones, “Did you find everything you need today?”—only marginally breaking the monotone to add the question to the last word. Without ever making eye contact, this “customer service professional” hands over the receipt and murmurs, “Thank you for shopping with us.” When service personnel are cold and perfunctory, customers feel no sense of connection and no sense of loyalty. They long for a place where someone will greet them with a smile, call them by name, and make them feel like they’re truly appreciated.

One of the most common unethical behaviors in the workplace is misuse of company time. This all stems back to having a conversation with your purpose partners and putting them first. If they do not feel appreciated, they are going to misuse the company’s time and conduct personal business during work hours. Believe it or not, your purpose partners want to be engaged. Talk to them about their own values and appreciate their individuality. Those unethical behaviors that can bring an organization down can be solved with a re-evaluation of values and ethics.

I believe this kind of impersonal service and unethical behavior is the result of losing our human value compass. A human value compass provides leaders with a true north heading that creates new levels of sustainable purpose partner engagement. A “magnet culture” is created by outrageously engaged human spirits who are treated exceptionally well and passionately spread the word to other like-minded people. Treating each other with respect and having a conversation about values and ethics will lead you to find that your purpose partners will hold your organization at a higher standard than before.