As a Miami-based Executive Coach and Consultant, my experience is that all companies have a set of Core Values whether they realize it or not. The question is whether they are clearly articulated and thoughtfully implemented into the company culture. Often, the Core Values are unspoken, underutilized, latent principles. Waking up the Core Values is perhaps the most energizing thing you can do for yourself as a business leader and for your team. Many organizational and leadership issues—including hiring and firing, talent retention, employee motivation and performance, and simple management skills can be vastly improved when the Core Values are alive within an organization.
Oddly enough, there is no formal discovery process or “delivery system” for the creation and implementation of Core Values. Below, however, is a four-step Discovery process to help your organization clarify its Core Values. In my next blog entry, I will detail practical ways to implement the Core Values into your organization.
Step 1: Orient
Identify employees who want to contribute to clarifying their company’s Core Values. Gather them. Typically only the leadership team contributes to this process, however you may also want to use a more inclusive process by involving employees cross-company. Select an external facilitator for this process, either a Coach, or someone on your team with solid group facilitation skills who can keep the team on track, as this process is a creative one and can easily go in many directions at once. The group facilitator must orient the committee/working group to the purpose of having Core Values. Respond to these two questions:
- How do we define Core Values? You may find that your team has different definitions of Core Values (often confusing this with Mission or Vision). Make sure that everyone is using the same definition. I like this one:
- Core Values are a set of beliefs that guides your actions and communicates what is right and what is wrong. Core values serve as a behavioral compass for all employees to follow, defines your culture and brand.
- Why are Core Values important to THIS Organization? Your team will likely discuss how a lack of the Core Values explains different organizational challenges and problems. Flag these issues and circle back to these in the Implementation phase of the CVs. I often orient the team to Simon Sinek’s concept of “the Golden Circle”—how the Why (including the CVs) should align with the What (services/products) and How (systems, processes) of the company.
Step 2: Word Storm
Have each member of the team write down a list (less than 10) of enduring principles [LK2] that define your culture. Use these guiding questions to help them in writing this list and then whiteboard all the words.
- How do you want your organization to operate (e.g. efficiently, honestly, etc.)?
- How do you want your organization to be perceived externally (i.e. in the eyes of the public or other external stakeholders)?
Step 3: Cluster & Prune
You will notice many interchangeable words chosen by your leadership team (efficient/productive, honesty/integrity, etc.). The facilitator should begin clustering these words with the everyone’s help; you can also have a member of the leadership team volunteer to lead part of this exercise. You will group key words into families and eliminate others (as Gino Wickman says “Keep, Kill and Combine”). In keeping the words that truly reflect the organization’s Core Values, use these guidelines:
- Keep the words non-technical—no jargon!
- Try to avoid over-done or empty words like “customer service” or “integrity”
- Use language that is captures the spirit and culture of your organization. The Core Values of Zappos is a good example including “Embrace and Drive Change; Create Fun and a little Weirdness”.
Step 4: Select
After the clustering and editing process, you should now choose your final Core Values. Keep this simple: chose no more than 3-5 Core Values if possible. Make sure that you have consensus with the leadership team. A few closing questions:
- Does this is truly represent our culture? Are these Core Values aligned with what we aspire to as an organization and as individuals? Do they capture the spirit of our brand and our people?
- Are there any star players in the organization that demonstrates these Core Values?
If you would me to facilitate a Core Values Discovery process for your leadership team, contact me here.