People have always told me how important company core values are. I’ve always understood what they’ve been saying “you can delegate more easily because everyone can make decisions through the lens of your core values” or “the hiring and firing process is so much easier because you make decisions based on whether the person fits your company core values”.
Core values give your team a reason for what they do and explain to your clients and suppliers what you’re all about. When we are looking at digital marketing strategy or even the redesign of a website for a company, we often start by asking what their core values are.
Really understanding your core values can be hard
From experience, I know how hard it is to really get to the core of what your values are. I’ve tried doing it by myself, I’ve tried working with external consultants, I’ve tried locking myself in a room and I’ve tried including the whole team in the process. In all of this we never managed to come up with a set of core values that really embodied the culture of our company.
That’s until recently. In my role as MD of an event hire company, I was finally able to lead the team to discover our core values. Days later, I jumped (metaphorically) with joy when I heard a member of the team suggesting we do something a different way “because how we’re currently doing it isn’t inline with our core values”.
In this post I share how we finally got to understand our core values.
The process we used to discover our core values
We got our leadership together in a room outside of the office, away from distractions. The whole process took us around 2 hours.
- Each member of the team listed the names of 3 people who work in the business that they would like to clone or who work somewhere else but they would love to hire for our company.
- Next each team member listed 3 characteristics of each person that summed up their decision to include that person on their list.
- Each team member then took it in turns to share the names of the 3 people and explain why they chose them. We added the 3 characteristics of each person to the whiteboard.
- Next we combined as many of the words as possible. For example if the words “positivity” “joy” and “happiness” were on the list, we would agree on one word like “positivity” that covered them all.
- Next we revisited the list and removed any words that the whole team couldn’t agree reflected the company culture.
- At this point we were down to a list of around 10 words. Next we repeated steps 4 and 5 until we got down to 5 values that really represented what our company was about
The core values that we decided on were:
- Not what but how
- Say what you mean, do what you say
- Value people
- Admire craftsmanship
- Be the solution
Helpful hints when deciding on your company core values
- Your core values should reflect who you are today. This is important for engaging your wider team, suppliers and clients. Don’t be a hypocrite.
- Don’t change your values just so that they fit an acronym. But if they do, then that can be really helpful for getting people to remember them. I was friends with the MD of a company whose values I still remember from 8 years ago because of this. Creative, Open, Responsive and Engaging or C.O.R.E. Values.
- Don’t Google “Core Value Ideas”. I’ve done this before and it completely derails the process. Your values are yours – don’t borrow them from someone else then try and shoehorn them into your business.
Making your company values stick
- Use them consistently. You should make your decisions as a leadership team with reference to your core values. Your leadership team should model making decisions based on company values to their teams.
- If you notice someone doing something in-line with a core value, name the value when you thank them.
- If you need to pull someone up for something, name the value that they are not in-line with.