Define Your Core Values, Don’t Let Them Define You

June 27, 2022

Create your company’s core values or they’ll create you. Having strong values is important to any organization. They bond individuals together and serve as the guiding principle for leading your organization forward. They play an integral role in developing your company culture and shaping the experiences for both your employees and your customers.


We know core values matter because they…


  • Become the building blocks of your identity.
  • Guide decision-making.
  • Create alignment among your team.
  • Inspire motivation.
  • Give you the tools to properly communicate.
  • Attract the right employees (and customers).


Remember what I said about creating core values? Still stands. If you’re not intentional about developing and instilling core values into your company, they’ll start to naturally emerge. That sounds great, right? Your natural, genuine, authentic core values will come out and develop your company culture. And maybe you’ll get lucky and experience that. However, for most companies, that’s a risky move. Without clearly distinguished values, the natural behaviors and attitudes of your employees will shape the values of your organization. You could end up with unhealthy, negative, unaligned, and inefficient values that go on to shape your company culture. This then leads to work inefficiencies, unhealthy employees, employee turnover, and overall frustrations among everyone involved. Getting ahead and taking control of your company culture before it’s too late is vital.


So, how do you narrow down your values and use them as building blocks to create a healthy and thriving company culture?


1. Think of your ideal employees.
2. List out the characteristics that make them outstanding employees.
3. Review your list and narrow it down to your top five.


Sure, it sounds as easy as one, two, three. But it’s important to give this exercise the time, thought, and intentionality that it deserves. As you think of your ideal employee or coworker, think of the employees who are helping move your business forward and towards achieving your business goals. We like to say, if we had 50 of them, we could take over the world. Now, what are the characteristics you attribute to them? Are they compassionate, inquisitive, helpful, eager? We recommend developing a list of at least 25 characteristics and values. Remember, as you review your list, think about your business vision and mission. Where are you headed and which of these values will help you efficiently achieve your goals? And finally, narrow down your list to your top five.


Congratulations, you’ve now successfully developed your company core values!


But don’t let your core values fall flat there. Take it a step further by defining your critical actions.


Critical actions are the ways in which your ideal employees are showing up every day—what are they contributing, what are their behaviors, how would you describe their actions? Your critical actions should expand on your core values.


Critical actions are the tangible ways that each employee can behave. Let me give you some examples: they show up on time, they ask clarifying questions, they’re quick to offer help to others. These become the actions, behaviors, and habits that each employee can embody to help accomplish the mission of the company.


Take your core value checklist and use it again: narrow down your critical actions. Again, be intentional and thoughtful about the ways you want each employee to show up to help further the mission of the organization. Keep in mind—these critical actions shouldn’t be specific to an employee’s position, experience level, or location. They are actions that can easily be taken by an employee at any level.


Now that you have your core values and critical actions, what do you do with them?


Core values and critical actions should be short, sweet, and memorable. Each employee should be able to easily recall the company values and actions and be mindful of exhibiting those on a regular basis.


There are several ways you can implement core values and critical actions into your organization:

  • Clearly display them around the office.
  • Communicate them at new hire onboarding.
  • Encourage employees by calling out times they exhibited a core value/critical action.
  • Include core values in hiring processes.
  • Use them as benchmarks for employee performance reviews.


Remember, your core values and critical actions shape your company culture. This is why it’s so important each employee strives to live up to these on a daily basis. Organizational leadership can use these core values and critical actions as a gauge for company health. A healthy and thriving company culture is paramount to seeing employee retention and development, business growth, and overall organizational success.


Don’t neglect your company values. It’s not a set-it-and-forget-it action step in business development. It’s an integral part of shaping your company culture, setting it up for sustained success.