What are Core Values?

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What are Core Values?

Core Values are the beliefs in which we are emotionally invested. They capture our PRINCIPLES, PHILOSOPHY and IDENTITY.  They define our CULTURE.  They speak to our clients and potential customers about what our company does. Core Values define who we are. 

When you promote your company’s Core Values, you will attract people with similar values, both employees and customers. Why? They too will be passionate about these same values. 

When Core Values are lived, they ignite passion, causing us to go above and beyond.  When Core Values are thoroughly understood, they –

  • shape our vision,  
  • provide a reference and framework for decision making processes, 
  • become timeless guiding principles that govern behaviours and decisions, and
  • create the foundation for our Organisation Culture.

Organisation Culture has a central role shaping staff attitudes and aligning behaviour with values. This is how we deliver on the company’s mission and align customer experience with company values and brand.

A Core Value is a principle you will never sacrifice, no matter the situation.

If any decision can sway the organisation from these values – it is not really a value.  Research investigating successful organisations has found the common factor is each defined its Core Values at establishment and built its Organisational Culture around these.[1] For example, if you consider quality a value but are prepared to sacrifice quality on a job for the sake of speed, then you need to question whether quality is really your Core Value. Gino Wickman states that values become synergistic and integral to all our decisions, “Once they’re defined, you must hire, fire, review, reward and recognise people based on these core values.”[2]

How do we identify Core Values?

For our values to be unique we must go deeper than the standard list of ‘honesty’, ‘integrity’, ‘teamwork’ and ‘customer service’.  Our Core Values are unique to us. They stir a sense of passion when we speak of them.

Ask yourself, “In my eulogy, what values would I want someone to refer to me as having?” or “What principles do I want my grand children to say they have learned from me?”. What have I been most proud of in my life, what was I truly passionate about? 

In a small business environment, the best way to identify and clarify your Core Values is through robust discussion. It will test your ideas and expose your fundamental principles and priorities.  An independent facilitator can assist you to identify you values by working with you and challenging your core team in a focused workshop situation. 

The next step is to test the values you have identified for several months, ensuring they are truly at the heart of your organisation.

How to communicate Core Values?

It is paramount that the leaders of your organisation live by the identified Core Values. 

 If your leaders do not lead by example, why would the rest of the organization? 

A leader must inform staff of the decisions the management team has made based on the agreed Core Values.  Management must walk the walk, not just talk it.  From such working examples, employees will better understand the Core Values they must apply in the decision making process under their control.

Reinforce discussions on Core Values throughout the organisation on a regular basis.  Communicate these examples to everyone.  Core Values need to be clearly identified in company policies which drive objectives, processes and performance.  People must be hire, trained, rewarded, disciplined, promoted, recognised and fired according to  Core Values.

Keep a Register of major decisions and include which Core Values were referred to in the process.

Recommended reading for Core Values

Here are some suggestions from key references to assist identify Core Values in the larger organisation:

“The Advantage” by Patrick Lencioni lists how Core Values can be identified in 2 steps –

1.       Look at key personnel in the organisation who embody the true essence of what is best about the company.  Break these points down and identify why they are so admired and why you’ve identified them as such.

2.       Look at personnel who although are technically good but rub people up the wrong way or just don’t fit… identify why this is so and then look at the opposite character trait.

A similar process is mentioned in “Traction” by Gino Wickman –

1.       Identify three people who, if you could clone them, would lead to market domination   (preferably from within your organisation). 

2.       Examine all the characteristics of these people to identify the qualities they exemplify.

3.       Go through and circle the qualities that are truly important, and cross off the ones that aren’t.

4.       Get the list down to between 3-7.

[1] Built to Last, The Advantage

[2] Gino Wickman, Traction

Need Help with Core Values and Culture?

Systems Strategy is able to provide this service and assist you with building a coherent set of values and guiding principles that will:

clarify your identity (brand),

forge your organisational culture, and

establish a framework for decision making.

For more information and advice on how you could improve your business’ performance with systems and processes, please contact me via email for an obligation free discussion: bruce.french@systemsstrategy.com.au.

I look forward to meeting with you.

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About Bruce

I’m ‘The Systems Guy’!  I add value to businesses like yours through the development and implementation of systems and measuring performance.

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