What are your organizations' core values? Have you thought about this much? Have you written anything down? If you are a sole proprietor with no employees, you probably haven't had the need for a well-articulated set of core values. Here, you cannot separate the person from the core values. They are as a part of you as your very name or your right arm. For an organization that has a handful to several hundred employees, your core values define your culture. They shape how decisions are made, how you accomplish your vision and mission, who you hire and how you handle a crisis.
When you articulate your core values by writing them down or putting them into an employee handbook, they can't be just pulled from the sky or off someone else's website. It is often difficult for some company leaders to identify their core values in one sitting or when they are in a room by themselves. They have to be who you are now, not what you want to be or what you want your company to be. Those are aspiring values, values that you hope to see worked into the culture someday. Core values are what the company and its culture are today. For instance, if the culture of your company doesn’t put kindness as a priority (for example, IT companies or law firms, where being frank, clear and honest is more important), then don't list kindness as a core value.
We have found that in order to discover your core values or the core values of your organization, you need to answer these two questions:
1. What is important to you about the organization?
2. What has to happen for you to know that these elements are happening?
So let's take the first question, what is important to you about the organization? Is it that you enjoy the people you work with? Is it that you have the potential for learning and growth? Think about those things, write them down. The next question, what has to happen for you to know that these elements are happening? For enjoying your workplace you might have to trust those people you work with. For the potential for learning and growth, it might be a challenging training program or strong mentors. From those two examples, your core values might be trust and a learning environment. Some organizations use one-word values on their websites or in their internal documents, but I really prefer value phrases. One of the value phrases for our financial services firm is "The client has to win!" This articulates a client's first value, but the phrase implies a more emphatic emotional connection to the value. Some firms will use a combination of one word with a phrase following that depicts what that word means to them.
What these values do is set a framework for making decisions that can be articulated to the lowest levels of the organization. So when a decision has to be made, your employees won't have to keep checking with you as the owner/leader but can determine what to do based on their understanding of the company values. If you would like help in identifying and articulating your core values, please don't hesitate to contact us.