An organization’s core values are the guiding principles and traits that describe and steer behavior. A standard practice for identifying a company’s core values is to have organizational leaders identify three to five words that describe the desired behaviors and/or beliefs of EVERY employee. We call them core because everyone in an organization must exemplify these values.
Honesty, selfless, and growth-oriented are common core values claimed by organizations across the world. Kenneth Majer, the author of Values in Action and Values-Based Leadership, described core values as the critical compass that guides us when making decisions in business and in life. Our core values are the timeless beacons that direct us to what we believe so we stay true to ourselves, our customers, and to those whom we care cabout.
There are two important aspects to consider on the topic of core values. First, each core value should be a test of fit for every employee of the organization. For example, suppose a company has a core value of “fitness.” If employees who do not place high value on fitness are allowed to join the team/organization, then this core values power will be diluted, and it will undermine the other core values.
Second, each core value should be used to evaluate the fit of partner candidates. When forming new partnerships, you should view partners as a natural extension of your team, like a supporting department. If you allow organizations to join forces with you, but you don’t share common convictions, your relationship will likely be strained.
A company’s core values have been described as a compass. What happens when we open a compass? The arrow quickly redirects itself to magnetic North. No matter where in the world the compass is opened, it automatically orients itself to the same location. In business, it is the responsibility of the leaders to first define an organization’s core values and then ensure that only those who possess these same core values are allowed to join and remain on the team.
Core values are a critical component of deciding whom you should invite to join your company, both internally (employees) and externally (partners). Align your company with people who are naturally drawn to the same beliefs, like a compass dial is naturally oriented to magnetic North. Have your company define between three-to-five core values and use these values to hire, partner, and connect with ideal customers.
Some organizations choose to have more than five core values. In most cases this is a bad idea. Again, core values are core because they are to be shared among all players. Core values become diluted when an organization has too many because leaders start to compromise and say, “As long as people fit at least five of our seven core values that is okay.” This is not okay. Remember, all employees must share the core values, or they do not belong in your company, period.
Take the United States Marine Corps as an example. I was blessed to serve six great years of my life in the Marines. This very elite organization has been in existence for nearly 250 years. A common belief among all Marines is the power of the Marines core values which are honor, courage, and commitment.
The Marines have a rich history of discipline, leadership, and success, none of which happened by accident. Throughout my military career, I spoke those three words countless times as I sought self-guidance when making tough decisions. The three core values, honor, courage, and commitment always seem to lift the fog and present a clear direction to guide me forward.
Most core values adopted by organizations seem easy to rally behind. Descriptors such as trustworthy, friendly, and helpful are attributes that every company leader would expect to see in new employees.
The core values, however, that your organization sets should be far more unique and descriptive than those generic words listed above. Here are a few values that will help get your creative juices flowing as you test the impact of your current core values. Again, your core values should be descriptors of strong beliefs that every team member shares so they can help guide decisions and strategies for the future.
Which of the following descriptors does your organization value the most? You can’t have both!
- Speed or accuracy?
- Profit or growth (reinvestment)?
- Perfection or iterations?
- Independence or dependence?
- Control or empowerment?
- Risk-taker or risk avoider?
- Trust or doubt?
- Innovation or status quo?
- Steady or agile?
After reading through this list of potential core values, you should see a tradeoff that exists from one value to its counterpart. True descriptors such as these will add clarity to your organization’s compass if you choose to leverage this powerful approach.
Below are some examples of companies and their core values. As you read through each value, decide if you believe the value is generic or unique.
Company: American Express
- Customer Commitment
- Question Assumptions
- Think Deeply
- Iterate as a Lifestyle
- Design is Everywhere
Company: Clif Bar
Company: Bridgestone Tires
- Technology Leadership
- Quality Products
- Community Involvement
Thoughtfully consider these examples of core values as you contemplate the current or intended core values of your company. Ask yourself, what are the true values that you want every employee and partner to exemplify? And then align your company with people who are naturally drawn to those same beliefs, like a compass dial is naturally drawn to magnetic North. The core values for PARTNERNOMICS are:
Core Values of PARTNERNOMICS:
Honor, Courage, Commitment, Economic Value