Or Are Core Values A Waste Of Time?
Core Values are a key foundational growth catalyst of any business. They are the expectation of how people will act and operate to help drive successful outcomes. Every business that I have previously worked for has had core values. The biggest challenge is that execution often fails.
If you have worked for one more businesses, you'd seen the values posted in the kitchen, maybe on the office walls. You may receive a card with the values on them. Or maybe they are placed on the business intranet. But, the key test is ... can you recite all of them, AND is it expected and measured that you represent these values regularly? Is your performance measured based on the values? The answer unfortunately is probably no.
Though it is rare, there are a few businesses that I have seen that truly live by their values. They hire by them, they fire by them, they live by them. Two I know of are Amazon and Tractor Supply Company. I'm sure there are more though. What you'd see is that the people at businesses such as these have clear expectations on performance.
I've seen both good and not quite as good values. Also, I've seen businesses both develop the values and push top-down versus having the team members create them. I've even seen a business hire McKinsey at a 7 figure amount to determine the right values for the business ... then McKinsey just surveyed the team members as to what values would be most appropriate. I strongly believe that the leadership team should determine the best values that they believe would help the business accomplish its goals and long term vision. And deploy top down.
Well Written Values:
Why are these good? Because they are clear, actionable, and measurable. We know if we're taking ownership or delivering results. These are real examples.
Poorly Written Values:
These are poor as they are not clear, not measurable or actionable. Integrity is a confusing term and people may not understand it. These are real examples.
It is important to follow these three key guidelines when creating business values.
Here's a short list of core values I believe are valuable and can be used as a starting point - but this is only the first step. The best thing is to work with your leadership team (whether it is at the top level or mid-level) and roll down. For example, I was a GM at one business that didn't have a core value list and not was interested in them. So we created our own.
This core value list is of course a starting point to think from. Do you want more or fewer. Maybe you start with 4-5 values which is small enough to easily memorize yet large enough to help set direction. Nothing is ever permanent and it creates a good foundation for moving forward.
Make it a big deal that we want to enhance how we operate. Explain the rationale. Why are the values important and why is each one relevant and important. Roll these top-down, regularly discuss them at all hands meetings, weekly team meetings, hiring, performance management, etc -- they're never just a card on your desk or a paper in the kitchen. We expect each team member to represent these and/or strive to improve how they embody them. There will always be situations where people are better at some values than others -- but it creates an opportunity to improve.
The focus should be on ongoing momentum and emphasis of how important that we (the leadership team and all team members) all represent these values. And over time, you will see the values continue to gain traction, buy in, and value-based execution.
And become a catalyst for growth.
Jack Welch, previous CEO of General Electric