For some, core values are this very soft and squishy subject matter that confuses most people. It is seriously a phrase without meaning. We understand it, relating to it and feeling as if we should all maintain a strong set of them. But when actually pushed to define our core values, we often stand there with a blank stare. I have seen smart leader after smart leader complicate their company cultures and core values by making them aspirational instead of something that is fundamentally entrenched in the DNA and fabric of their business.
The truth of the matter is that core values can be a really tricky proposition. It feels essential and extremely important that we all stand for something and align our actions with our core values. But that is where the contradiction and challenge can often occur. We all know we want to maintain strong principles and also do the right things. But in the process of trying to run a business and succeed as leaders, we sometimes lose sight of what really matters.
That being said, my perspective is the only way to actually breath life into your core values is to make them personal. Core values should be who you are. They are your heart and soul, the pillars of your very existence. They should support you and guide you, always there to ensure you are headed in the right direction. You don’t have to have dozens of them. Just a few really strong values can really go a long way. Most of us mere mortals can only be a limited number of things. You can’t be everything to everyone, especially as it relates to business. That is why you have to really be thoughtful and pick and choose which values are really the most important to you.
Is it honesty? Integrity? Resilience? Grit? Determination? Teamwork? There is an endless list of core values from which you can choose. These are just a few that matter to me. And over the years I have really worked to put my money where my mouth is. I have instilled my core values into my business and its culture. For example, I have given culture tours of Comfort Research every month for the last year and a half. We have had nearly 1000 people ‘tour’ our workplace in order to learn about our culture. Funny enough, it is not really a tour at all. Instead, it is centered on how to identify and implement an awesome set of core values, which I am proud to say we have here at Comfort Research. We just call it a tour, but perhaps we should call it something else? Either way, we offer these tours because we wanted to not just be takers in our community but also give back to the community that has given us the help we needed to land where we are today.
I can honestly say in the beginning of my business I would have never felt comfortable offering such a behind the curtains view of our business. But now, with a great set of core values, I have no problem showing everyone our secret sauce. They keep us focused, motivated, and are really a driver in the success of our company. So with that said, what about you?
After reading this blog, take out a piece of paper and start writing down your core values. The answers or lack thereof might surprise you. But that is okay, since this is all a work in progress. Here are a few tips I have always relied upon when thinking about and sculpting my core values:
+ Simplify your core values. Adding more crap does not necessarily make things better. It can actually complicate things. There is beauty in simplicity. Simple engineering. Simple plans. Simple design. And simple core values. The simpler something is the easier it is to execute and communicate.
+ A great set of core should meet the following criteria:
Authentic—you have to walk the walk and talk the talk.
Memorable—if you cannot state them without hesitation then they are either too complicated or just don’t matter enough to you. Consistent—they should be aligned with who you are.
Exciting—if you aren’t getting fired up about them, then why would anyone else?
+Don’t sacrifice them. Finally, you should never sacrifice your core values for profit or for anything or anyone else. There are your core values for a reason, and they are infallible. Situations and obstacles might very well challenge the core of your beliefs, but it is your responsibility to stay true to form. Doing so will offer great advantage in the long run.
Your core values are your oxygen. They keep you going and cannot survive without them. So as you move forward in your day-to-day responsibilities, keep your core values close to you. Frame them. Jot them down on your pone. Keep a list in your wallet or your purse. And no matter what, don’t ever let them go.