It has almost become a series of catch phrases in modern business, as you hear executives talking, on and on, about their company’s core values, endless mission statements and the importance of a “strong” organizational culture. It’s so prevalent that all of these are now commonly accepted as standard business language. But what exactly does this all mean? Do you know what your company’s core values are, and why they’re so important? If you’re the boss, have you made this clear to all of your staff? If not, be sure to check out this course on successfully defining your business from day one and get it right the first time.
An organization’s core values are the fundamental beliefs and guiding principles for all of their behavior. They help people determine what’s right and wrong, and help companies to decide if they’re on the right path. The core values within an organization are effectively the backbone that supports the corporate vision, shapes a business’s culture, and reflects the heart of what it is a particular company is interested in achieving. Look through this course and decide what it’s going to take to achieve your own company’s vision. At the core of this all are the company values, which are essentially a snapshot of a company’s identity, their beliefs and principles. Most companies invest heavily in the technical skills of their staff, and it’s not hard to forget that often what makes a business successful, and keeps it running smooth is the set of core values all the staff believe in.
Setting this up right can help your business in many ways:
- It helps you in the decision making process. As an example if you always stand behind the quality of your products, it’s a very easy choice to eliminate products or suppliers who cannot reach a satisfactory standard level.
- It helps to educate clients and new potential customers what your company stands for, and gives them an insight into the identity of the company. With the competitiveness present in the modern economy, if your core values connect to people better than your competition this is a distinct advantage.
- It helps in your recruiting and retention of key staff. Employee’s now have the power and it’s easy for them to see what is going on behind the scenes, and only apply for companies that have the core values they value.
If you’ve got a business already, you’re probably asking yourself now “so how do I set the core values in my own company?” That is a great question, but typically these cannot be set just because you decide you want to. Most companies have a set of core values already, they just need to be discovered. You’ll be surprised to learn that these values are probably also quite strong, even if they haven’t been formalized and communicated. They’ve simply developed based on how the managers and customers operate, and how people go about their days and get their jobs done. Discovering these can be tricky, but here’s what you need to do:
- Choose 5-7 people that are the highest performers, are well respected by both their teams and their peers and have a good understanding of your own core values.
- Get them each to list out the core values they believe the organization to currently hold.
- Run through each of the core values they come up with and ask “Are any of these core values fundamental to the business?”
- Look at them yourself, and ask if you would continue to hold these values yourself if you no longer needed to work another day in your life?
- Question the entire team and ask them if they see these values being valid in 100 years, and discover why (or why not).
- Find out if they would want the organization to hold on to these values, even if they became a competitive disadvantage at a later stage.
- Ask if they left the company today, and started a new job tomorrow, in a different industry altogether, would they follow the same core values?
Using the insight from the last three questions you can make a critical separation between strategy and values. Core values are fixed no matter what, regardless of time, internal or external factors. The strategies you follow are fluid, and can change as needs require. Make sure that every item on your list has answers of yes, for these questions, and you’ll have a very good idea of what makes up the heart of your organization. As you work through these, you’ll find that you may want to strive for more and more core values, or there are a huge amount present because the list is potentially endless. What’s critical to success is actually aligning your corporate values with what it is your customers value. If you hit this nail on the head you’ll be positioned for radical success, which you can learn more about in this post.
If you’re new to all this you are probably wondering what the heck core values actually look like. There are definitely similarities between companies across different industries, and these are a list of common core values you will come across in business:
- Ambition: Driving towards high performance, success and/or fame
- Approachability: An open door policy that lets anyone raise their concerns to the decision makers
- Assertiveness: Standing up for your rights, and not being taken advantage of
- Balance: Being proactive and creating and maintaining a sustainable work-life balance for staff
- Commitment: Putting all of your efforts into a product, service or initiative that has an impact
- Community: Having a positive impact on society and being a good corporate social citizen
- Compassion: Having empathy towards customers, staff, and society
- Decisiveness: Using the right information to make decisions fast, and take action
- Dependability: Being steadfast and reliable, trusted by clients and staff
- Diligence: Careful and persistent work towards a goal
- Discipline: Obeying the rules and acting appropriately
- Discretion: Behaving and speaking in ways that do not cause offense or reveal private information
- Diversity: Respecting the differences between employees and having equal opportunity for all
- Efficiency: The ability to produce a result with the minimum expenditure of time and resources
- Empowerment: Pushing employees to take responsibility and do their best
- Enthusiasm: Being passionate about your industry, your customers and your products
- Generosity: Thinking of others before thinking of one’s self
- Honesty: Always speaking the truth
- Ingenuity: Thinking outside of the box to create new solutions
- Innovate: Spending the time and resources on new and creative ideas that could change the world
- Inquisitiveness: Not afraid to ask the tough questions that need to be asked
- Integrity: Never compromising the truth and acting with honesty
- Leadership: Empowering employees to make decisions for themselves and lead
- Longevity: Taking a strategic and market position that sets the company up for the long haul
- Loyalty: Being faithful to the organization, the customers, and the staff
- Optimism: Looking at every challenging situation from a positive light
- Ownership: Treating customers and staff like family
- Perseverance: Not willing to accept the status quo and overcome all challenges in getting there
- Respect: Displaying admiration for customers and staff, that are the key to a business’s success
- Safety: Going above and beyond the legal requirements to have an accident-free workplace
- Thrift: Finding unique ways of operating that are cost effective
The trouble with core values is that there are so many great attributes to have – you can often find yourself with a fast growing list of values. It’s not possible to live by them all, and if you try your staff will have no idea on what to focus on. Keeping it short, simple and direct is key to getting your company on the right track. It’s also difficult to communicate and reinforce your values when there are more than 4 or 5. Learn what it takes to communicate these effectively to your entire staff though this course. When you begin looking at companies that have a strong set of core values today, here’s some you may recognize from some of the biggest companies out there:
Their focus on what they call the “10 things we know to be true”
- Focus on the user and all else will follow.
- It’s best to do one thing really, really well.
- Fast is better than slow.
- Democracy on the web works.
- You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.
- You can make money without doing evil.
- There’s always more information out there.
- The need for information crosses all borders.
- You can be serious without a suit.
- Great just isn’t good enough.
- We believe that we’re on the face of the Earth to make great products.
- We believe in the simple, not the complex.
- We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products we make.
- We participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.
- We believe in saying no to thousands of projects so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us.
- We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot.
- We don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change.
As a company, and as individuals, we value integrity, honesty, openness, personal excellence, constructive self-criticism, continual self-improvement, and mutual respect. We are committed to our customers and partners and have a passion for technology. We take on big challenges, and pride ourselves on seeing them through. We hold ourselves accountable to our customers, shareholders, partners, and employees by honoring our commitments, providing results, and striving for the highest quality.
Often the best way to see if a company is truly living by their core values is to observe them. Core values are truly only core values if they influence the people within the organization, and they live by these. The best companies have developed very effective core values that are also working hard to instill these throughout their organizations. Take a moment and think of your own company, and the positive effect you could have on it by identifying and working on improving your own core values. A CEO’s primary job is to motivate and sustain a company over the long run, and understanding your core values is at the heart of this. Once you’ve got your head around the values, learn about the foundations of business strategy and start making a difference, today.