In a recent article in Evan Carmichael, I was able to share a bit about the creation of my company’s core values and give some pointers on creating your own.
Original article here.
Core values aren’t supposed to be a pie-in-the-sky list of things you hope your employees care about. They’re not supposed to be a list of generic principles you stole from another company’s website. And they’re certainly not supposed to be kept in some binder that no one ever picks up.
Your company’s core values should provide unique, specific guidance that resonates with every member of your team. The right ones will help them make tough decisions, approach tricky client-facing scenarios with grace, and ultimately usher your company towards its big-picture goals.
Nearly 20 years ago — when my company was still in the process of finding its footing — six members of my team attended a conference called “Rockefeller Habits” led by author Verne Harnish. There, my team members participated in a collaborative exercise that helped them build a list of core values for our business.
Creating these values together was such an enlightening and fulfilling experience. At the conclusion of the conference, we excitedly brought the document back to the rest of the team and continued hacking away at it as a larger group.
After a few more brainstorming sessions, we landed on a list of five core values that remain exactly the same to this day:
- Employees first. Always.
- Work as a team, win as a team.
- Reputation before revenue.
- Commitment to safety.
- Make it happen.
Even as my company has grown in size, reach, and scope over the decades, not a single word of these core values has changed.
Today, they’re instilled in every member of our team from day one. During training, new employees hear stories of our core values in action, giving them a real-life look at why they’re important to us and how they relate to our day-to-day operations.
On top of that, everyone is given a wallet-sized card that has our values listed on it. We urge employees to refer to it whenever they find themselves in a sticky situation. If the solution they’re considering is only in sync with three of our values, it’s not the right solution. Everything we do must be in alignment with all five core values.
It took a village to come up with our core values, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. I strongly suggest you take a similar approach.
Here are four questions to ask your team when crafting your core values:
- What’s important to you as an individual?
Just because you’re working together as a professional team doesn’t mean you should forget about everyone’s personal interests. Every employee comes with his or her own baggage and beliefs, and if your company’s core values don’t jive with these quirks, you’ll find yourself with a list of ideals that no one wants to embody. In reality, these different skills, strengths, and viewpoints scattered throughout your team are where the magic comes from. Incorporating them into your core values will keep your company aligned and ensure everyone’s a believer.
- What’s important to those we serve?
Taking your customers into consideration is a vital piece of the core values conversation. What’s important to them has to be important to you, because without them, your company cannot exist. Be the kind of company that clients look up to and respect, and instill values that ensure a consistent level of customer service in every interaction they have with you. This is how you turn leads into long-term loyal customers.
- What’s unique about working here?
Asking this question to your team will help you realize how special your company is. Who wouldn’t enjoy reflecting upon the fact that they work for a unique, exciting company that’s capable of great things? All the different responses to this question will reveal the most important aspects of your company’s culture. These are the things that should remain consistent over the years as you grow and expand, helping you differentiate yourself from the pack in a crowded marketplace.
- What’s our history?
Telling stories from the past will help you get to your true core values. How did your company get to where it is today? What unique trials and obstacles have your employees conquered since getting hired? Thinking about these things will help you distill your company’s essence into a set of clear, concise statements. Remembering where you’ve been will help you identify what you should be aiming for. The values that have seen you through the tough times are the ones that will define your future.
Your company’s core values should represent the pride you have in your existing team — not the ideal attributes you hope they someday embody — so creating this list as a team is the best plan of attack.
When everyone feels a sense of ownership in their company’s core values, internal relationships improve and a commitment to top-notch customer service runs rampant.
So, what will your village’s values be?