What's the Big Deal with Core Values?
Core values have been one of the hottest buzz-words in business circles for some time. What's the big deal? After all, many organizations will successfully fulfill their goals, mission, and may even be very profitable with only implicit values or a few well-known principles. Ask longer-term employees and they can often list off the well-known values seen on a corporate poster such as, respect, leadership, trust, etc. without thinking much about it. Are these simple or sometimes vague terms of any use to drive business success?
What are core values? They are a handful of rules that remain constant over time; the fundamental beliefs of a founder, CEO, leadership team or organization. Core values help dictate behaviour by creating an unwavering guide throughout the company.
In Good to Great, organizational expert Jim Collins states, "core values are essential for enduring greatness, but it doesn't seem to matter what those core values are. The point is not what core values you have, but that you have core values at all, that you know what they are, that you build them explicitly into the organization..."
This suggests having core values are important but trying to utilize values from another organization such as a successful competitor, an ideal, or adopting fancy "best practice" posters is not the way to go. In The 7 Attributes to Agile Growth monograph, global business leader Keith Cupp highlights that core values "must be who you are, not who you want to be" yet how often do we see leadership teams distill their core values from outside rather than within? Imposing core values more as a vision than a reality of the workplace culture? If the CEO and leadership team are not clear on what the core values are and how the values show up in practical terms daily, they will likely have a hard time maintaining a solid and positive culture that supports success as they grow.
Let's be clear, an organization doesn't need to have clearly articulated values for success but there is clear evidence that it does help businesses, leadership teams, and employees by providing
guidance, often in the absence of clear decisions, procedures, or rules communicated through the organization. Core values are like a compass that guides the leadership team and all employees to the right choices whenever specific direction or information may be lacking or absent. Those businesses and organizations who do capitalize on having clearly articulated core values simply do better.
To be an effective tool to support decision-making, it is helpful for companies and organizations to do a simple exercise or two to identify what the core values are and how to communicate them. Clearly identifying core values is one important step in ensuring your leadership team is authentic, healthy, and aligned. We recommend a simple updating exercise at least annually and more often if turnover is high or a major change in strategic direction is undertaken. Stay agile!
As a CEO or Executive of a mid-size organization, are you asking the right questions? Try our 10 minute, 7 Attributes of Agile Growth® Assessment and we guarantee we'll soon be asking some very different and powerful questions to build your roadmap for success!
As a Certified Business Coach, I utilize my professional expertise every day to ensure clients I work with can successfully ask the right questions. By utilizing the 7 Attributes of Agile Growth®, I provide a proven, practicable and profitable path for companies, non-profits, and local governments who want to move beyond their current performance status quo.