Creating Meaningful Core Values

The Challenge Defined:

Every organization loves to talk about their “core values.” And I’ve even worked with some companies that seem to live by them … and thrive because of them. I’m a bit of a cynic though, when someone tells me their organization has X-number of core values, and when I ask what they are, they need to look them up in their employee onboarding binder! 

What are core values? They’re the general principles that can guide your organization through any decision or situation. Most often, they reflect your ethics and priorities as the company owner. When you founded your company, you operated according to these values instinctively, and they didn’t necessarily need to be explicitly defined. 

But as your company grows, with activity increasingly (and appropriately) outside your daily and complete control, those ethical touchstones may not be top of mind with everyone. At that point they need to be documented and ingrained. Employees need to understand the behaviors and practices that are expected and those that won’t be tolerated. 

It’s your responsibility to put those core values in place. But that’s not enough. You must visibly live them and make sure employees see you apply them in important situations. Communicate them at every opportunity – staff meetings, planning sessions, even company parties. Only in this way will employees be convinced that the core values truly matter.

Here are three steps to creating a values-centered company culture:

  1. Identify three to five core values that align with your vision, business strategies, and ethical priorities.
  2. Build the core values into key processes – for example in the employee review process and the sales/business development process. 
  3. Internally publicize and acknowledge instances where an employee clearly operated according to the core values. 

Critical Questions:

  • Have your company’s values been articulated and defined?
  • Are the values embodied in important aspects of the company, including processes and procedures?
  • Does the CEO live by and frequently refer to the company’s values?
  • Are employees recognized when they exemplify the core values of the company?

Why This Challenge Must Be Resolved:

Without adherence to well-defined core values, the soul of the company will begin to devolve, and behavior issues will proliferate. An organization that operates according to core values will have:

  • More transparent decision processes
  • Better behavior 
  • More consistent performance
  • A healthier working culture

Need help with this topic or leadership coaching? Contact Mission Critical Teams.