Are Your Values Core?

Ken Larson

Everyone business knows they’re supposed to have core values, so companies spend a lot of time writing theirs.

Unfortunately, most of that time and deliberation results in lofty, hollow core values, like ‘respect’, ‘integrity’, and ‘excellence’. Empty, meaningless value statements like this do nothing to inspire your organization — they actually tend to decrease employee morale, alienate your customers, and undermine your executive credibility.

If you’re unsure whether your company values fall into this category, I’ve laid out some tell-tale signs that you might need to rethink your value statements.

Signs Your Values Aren’t Core

  • You’ve written down your company values, but aren’t actively practicing or promoting them throughout the organization.
  • Your behavior contradicts, or is the complete opposite, of your stated values.
  • Your values are aspirational — meaning they represent behavior you wish was exemplified by employees (but isn’t).
  • Your values only reflect the minimum behavior and standards required of employees.

If any of these scenarios sound familiar, your value statements need an overhaul.

According to Verne Harnish, in his book Scaling Up, crafting thoughtful and meaningful core value statements is critical to the long-term growth strategy of any company.

How to Begin Uncovering Meaningful Core Values

First, ask yourself:

  • What matters most to me?
  • Why does my company exist?
  • What makes my company different than all the others in the industry?

Answering these questions will help you begin to unearth what’s core to your business — every company’s values should be unique to them, not a list of generic values you think you should have.

Secondly, establish your “no” list:

  • What am I willing to say no to in order to live in alignment with my values?
  • What am I not willing to compromise?

These answers further clue you in on what matters most.

Another tip is to excavate your personal values. These act as your own set of personal standards and can greatly impact your professional values. Often, when I ask leaders what their personal core values are, they can’t name any. Or they have them, but haven’t necessarily defined them.

Once your personal values are clear to you, are they complementary of your organizational values? They don’t have to be identical, but the closer they match, the more successful you (and your company) will be.

Both the success of the individual and of the company are derivatives of strong, purposeful, well-defined values. People will work harder when they’re happy, when they get to be who they are, and can rally around a common purpose. And if there is a gap between your personal and organizational values … well, then you’ve identified a ‘stressor’ or pain point you can immediately start resolving.

The Takeaway

Your success depends on understanding your values, both personally and professionally. If your values are well-defined and meaningful, making business decisions will be easier and you’ll attract talent with similar values. It gets your team excited about your business.

Your core values are the cornerstone of company culture, guide the direction of the company for growth, and add meaning to your work. They give us a sense of purpose and keep us grounded.

If you can look back on every day and see that your spent energy achieved (or progressed towards) what matters most to you, it was a successful day. And if it wasn’t, you know what to focus your energy on moving forward.

So, are your values core?

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