Core values are a collection of vital guiding principles that determine the foundation for your company culture. If you don’t already have core values in place for your company, the Evolved Enterprise book shares great examples of these and the Evolved Business Blueprint has a detailed step by step process to successfully create these for your organization.
More Than Just a Wall Plaque
Many companies though – from startups to large organization with thousands of employees – have theoretically great values that sit on the literal or proverbial wall, but do little to influence the day to day operations of the organization.
Yes, core values are outward facing phrases that illustrate what your culture stands for, and can help you recruit aligned team members and customers. Beyond that though, they can be some of your greatest operational and management tools.
Core Values for Empowered Growth
Once you have core values in place, you can actively use them to operate your organization and optimize for your team’s empowered growth. With this approach, your core values guide your team’s day to day decisions, relationships and behavior – and provide your leadership team with an empowering coaching framework for your team’s performance.
Regardless of how great your team is, even your best “A players” will make mistakes, and you’ll find it essential to give feedback for improvement. Feedback can be an uncomfortable, confrontational process, where people get defensive and take things personally… or you can take a value driven approach to maximize results and minimize personal tension, using core values as your management tools.
When someone makes a mistake, identify a core value that, if it were fully embraced would help avoid that mistake in the future. Then inquire, “Do you feel this situation is a full expression of this core value?” – oftentimes, this inquiry alone will be enough to drop defenses and inspire a level of personal reflection to learn from the situation and empower your team member with a healthy perspective for the future to navigate similar challenges.
For example, one of our core values in Vision Tech Team is “Own It! Be responsible and reliable.” When someone points blame to another team member, or a client, for a particular issue, I often give the reflection and inquiry “Do you feel this is an example of Owning It?” which almost immediately shifts to a more empowering perspective.
If your core values are truly principles that you would hire and fire on, they are also principles for constant reflection of how your team is actually showing up. In theory, if you have the right core values and your team is actually living to them, you have a great organization. In practice, once you have the right core values in place, it takes coaching, leadership and constant feedback to fully express and embody these values. Every time you use a core value to give feedback, you not only take personal pressure off of yourself and other managers, you also align your team members more deeply with the foundation you set for your company culture in the first place.
Evolving Your Values Through Active Reflection
Finally, actively using your core values for feedback will empower the evolution of your company’s value system through real-world practice and active reflection, improving the essence and expression of these values to be more reflective of how you’d like your organization to show up in the marketplace.
For example, we’ve operated Vision Tech Team for over two years with the core value of Very Fast Response Times – a value we held in high esteem, as the standard client experience of design agencies and freelancers in our industry is to be left in the dark on progress and frustratingly slow response times from vendors. As we’ve evolved our organization and consistently used this value to coach our people, we’ve realized it’s made us really great at being reactive and fighting fires, rather than being proactive.
Through reflection on how this value and expectation has consistently impacted our organization, we’ve flipped it on its head to be “Vision First: be proactive and begin with the end in mind.” While we still believe in responding quickly to our team members and clients, we now have a more forward focus with our overall culture and systems and a much greater confidence in our company’s future (not to mention less stress for each team member). This shift didn’t come from theory, it came from actively using our core values to manage our team and processes and reflecting on what that practice was teaching us.
Where to Next?
For examples of other business who have successfully implemented these strategies be sure to check out the Evolved Enterprise book, and for a step by step guide to replicate their success in your own business check out Evolved Business Blueprint.