How developing core values can drive your business culture

An informative article series designed to help businesses with strategy and alignment. Written by Bill Bain. If you have any questions regarding these topics, you can contact Bill via email.

In my last article (Direction: Where do you want to go?), I covered the first two steps (Purpose and Vision) in the journey to establishing Direction (where you want your company to go). Now, I want to talk about step three: developing core Values – the way things are done.

Your company’s core values are another critical element in establishing a clear direction for people to follow. Values build business culture. They serve as a behavioral compass. They define how things are done around the workplace and influence an individual’s performance. They need to authentically define how you and your team members:

  1. operate,
  2. behave, and
  3. interact on a day-to-day basis.

Along with your company’s purpose, values create your company’s identity and can distinguish your organisation from others. This is assuming that they are not just words on a poster but are integrated into every aspect of the workplace.

When your core values are truly ingrained in your ways of doing business, every decision you make will be driven by your core values, and aligned with your brand and what it seeks to accomplish.

Drawing lines of sight

Integrating values with purpose, strategy, and goals have a direct and measurable impact on scalability and profit. One study found brands with a high sense of purpose and clear values, increased profit by 175% over a 12-year period.

When a person understands how their actions relate to specific values, then it all makes sense, bringing the value to life.

However, more commonly than not, leaders don’t have a line of sight between a person’s behaviour and the company values “high on their radar”. Leaders need to make the effort to be aware of such events happening and recognise positive behaviour. Publicly sharing ways that team members have put core values into action will motivate the rest of your employees to do the same.

Conversely, a leader must coach an employee if their action conflicted with a value. Leaders have to set the tone for making the company’s values a part of everyday life in the company. Reminding team members of the core values is a start. But living by the core values yourself will make these reminders much more impactful. In high-performing teams, this responsibility doesn’t just rest on the shoulders of leaders, but of everyone.

Creating your company’s core values

You can have as many as you like but just beware if there are too many, it makes them hard to be memorable.

Step one: Brainstorm.

The first step in establishing your company’s core values is brainstorming potential principles. If it makes sense for your business, seek input from a variety of sources throughout the company. Ask current employees what they think the present core values are, and what aspirational values they hope to see in the future. Create a comprehensive list of all current and potential values to review.

Step two: Group and eliminate.

Look at the full list of established values. Group similar ones and eliminate any you feel don’t best represent your business or share too much overlap with others in the group. Work to establish roughly ten values from your original list that truly represent your company and the work that you do.

Step three: Distil core elements.

From the list of ten, determine which of these are vital to the success of the company. For some businesses, that’s three or four, while for others it’s seven or eight. Whatever the number, ensure it’s manageable as you’ll want to put these values into action through training, internal communication, external communication, and brand establishment. Some examples are:

  • hard work
  • open-mindedness
  • teamwork
  • commitment
  • entrepreneurial spirit

Step four: Draft a statement.

Use the final set of values you established in the previous step, and draft value statements. Often, these statements are a series of bullet points or numbered lists rather than a paragraph or series of sentences. Write a few drafts with varying levels of explanation alongside the bullets. See if you can refine the language to the absolute minimum necessary to convey the value. Examples could be:

  • Commitment means – “do what we say we will do” or “do the right thing”.
  • Teamwork – “we succeed or fail as one”.

Step five: Finalise core values

Review the drafts with a focus group of upper-level management, other employees, customers, or clients. Ask them for input on which statement best represents the business. Use the feedback to select and refine your core values statement until you have a final, ready-to-publish document.

Step six:  Communicate the statement.

You must communicate your core values to your employees and your customers. Determine the best ways to do so for your business. This might entail creating a training series for current employees or publishing the core values on your website or through a newsletter for customers.

Step seven: Live the values.

Finally, integrate your established core values into the everyday practices and procedures of the business. Make sure they’re widely available for review and commonly referenced. Making them a daily part of business operations ensures the core values are at the center of the company’s vision.

“Your company values are not just hung on the walls, they are constantly demonstrated in the halls.”

Step eight: Create connectivity.

What a value means to one person, may mean something else to another. In order for a person to live a value they must connect to it and express behaviours in their own way.

Examples of company values

Gilligan Sheppard

  • The freedom to be real.  
  • The courage to imagine.
  • The determination to excel together.
  • Growing each other.

Departures Hotel
Departures Hotel is an independent, upscale boutique hotel focused on unique and customisable customer experiences.

  • Embrace uniqueness.
  • Maintain humility.
  • Listen, then talk.
  • Laugh often.
  • Assess and improve.
  • Do good.

Healthy Habits
Healthy Habits is a franchised health and wellness company with storefronts and offices across the nation. Their goal is to make healthy living accessible to everyone.

  • Work with what you have: Use the resources available in your area first before seeking other options.
  • Start where you are: Wellness journeys can start at any time in any situation.
  • Honour above profit:Keep respect for the earth, the community, and the individual at the forefront of every interaction.
  • Support one another:Teamwork and collaboration drive innovation and growth.

In closing

Establishing a clear set of core values and aligning everyone to those values firmly supports having everyone rowing the waka in the same direction.

It is often a benefit to have a facilitator support the development of core values, so should you wish to explore this option, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further with you. You can contact me via email.

My next article on creating clear goals will be the final step in setting an organisation’s direction.

If you don’t know where to begin, want to talk through something, or have a specific question but are not sure who to address it to, fill in the form, and we’ll get back to you within two working days.

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