Core Values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization.
Core Values serve as the guiding light for how everyone in your company interacts, communicates and works with each other, external customers, and the community. The core values are the solid foundational building blocks on which your culture is built. They are your company’s principles, beliefs, or philosophy of values.
Core Values provide the framework to help guide many business decisions. When weighing options – refer to the Core Values and the answer should become clear.
Core Values should be unique to your company. Just as your culture should only be able to describe your company alone, the Core Values follow the same idea. Consider examples of Core Values of the big names in business or your niche, but don’t copy them. Don’t try to be them. Try to be as impactful and distinct as they are… in your own way. Otherwise, customers won’t be able to state what is memorable about you and the way you work with them.
Avoid Truth, Integrity, Honesty, and Ethics as stated Core Values. Yes, I went there. My explanation… only because I feel these are inherent in any honestly run business. These will also likely be included in virtually every other company’s core values as well. Get to the Core Values that really mean something in a truly non-generic way. Your company Core Values shouldn’t be able to describe any company other than your own. So don’t include the ones that come standard with every other “Core Values Workshop” mindset. Let’s assume those as a given. If they can’t be assumed, then you’ve got bigger issues than defining other Core Values.
Use phrases or sentences as Core Values to convey the meaning. A word to summarize the intent is great – but extend it with a sentence to demonstrate the meaning within your organization in a specific way. Example – Fun: We work hard, and we play hard. Fun should be included during the work day as well as our outside team activities.
Core Values MUST be exemplified at the leadership level. As with culture, leadership must model Core Values in their actions, behaviors, thoughts, and communications for them to be believed understood and embraced by staff. Should this not be the case, you’ll be lumped into the same category as the notorious, now defunct, Enron. As little as 18 months before their demise, Enron had crafted a Core Values list that was clearly only worth its weight on paper. Had they truly personified those core values, they might still be around today.
Core Values need to be evident in practice – not just written on a document because they sound good. After a visitor spends a day within your company, they should be able to look at your Core Values statement and they are evident by how the company and staff operate as a whole and were apparent and displayed in their own personal experience.
Core Values help in recruiting and hiring decisions. While I’m a huge advocate of diverse thinking and perspectives, the Core Values of staff personalities and characteristics should hold true to the company Core Values. These Core Values, along with your defined ideal culture, should be openly shared and discussed during the interview process. Pay particular attention to how they engage in this part of the interview. Share examples of how Core Values are internally and with external customers. Prompt discussions with candidates on how they might envision the Values being exemplified in the prospective – or past – roles. Their stories will display an accurate understanding of the Core Values and their creativity in displaying them to customers.
Core Values should serve as foundation and guidance, not limitations, for the folks you believe in and invest in to best represent your company and work with your customers. Similar to using the core values to guide business decisions, staff will use them in making daily decisions in their responsibilities. When deciding upon a course of action, if there is a Core Value to support one method vs another, the answer becomes clear. The Values, as a whole, should not be limiting in nature, but provide clarity and direction.
Core Values guide performance reviews. How well your staff lives by and exemplifies the core values of your company should be coached and rewarded. Let’s say you have “Taking Creative Risks” as one of your Core Values. If you have someone who does their job very well, gets along well with others, and customers rave about them personally… yet they take few – if any – risks, they should be coached in this area. First – be certain they really understand what taking creative risks means within your company. Share a few examples of creative risks that you yourself have taken or – concealing the identity – the risks that coworkers have taken. Since risks are never guaranteed as a positive outcome, be sure to share some that did and did not turn out as planned, but keep the way the risk was created and ventured for the benefit of the company or the customer as the main focus.
Core Values are ingrained by frequent and regular discussion and relevant stories. I’m a huge fan of daily and/or weekly team huddles. Have staff share stories about how a Core Value contributed a decision or action for a coworker or customer. Stories are how people relate, internalize, and learn information and concepts. Hearing examples from those around them, staff will start to build on those or take key components and create their own way of modeling those Values.
Embed the Core Values throughout the Customer Journey and Experience. When mapping out your Customer Experience, be sure the Core Values are consistent and evident in every phase and impact point. Pick key moments of influence in the customer journey and consider how the Values can be seen and felt by the customer in each. Have the Core Values in your marketing material, on your website, in the lunch room, conference rooms, walls, feature an “Employee of the Month” who models the Core Values in a newsletter, etc. Talk about them, discuss them, challenge them, find ways to integrate them into conversations.
By intentionally identifying, setting, and modeling Core Values, the more they will become the DNA of your company, distinguish you from your competitors, and make you memorable in the minds of your customers.
It’s a beautiful thing…