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Part of the culture, or a well kept secret?

If Values are guiding principles, then Core Values should be guiding principles that are at the heart, the core, of your organization. They should be part of the decision making process at all levels of the organization. They should be something leaders talk about and reference on a regular basis to make sure they are always front of mind for everyone in the organization.

In too many organizations however, Core Values are a well-kept secret. The organization has them because the senior executives were told you need to have a Mission Statement, Vision Statement and Values, but few people, if any, know what they are, where to find them or how to articulate them. In some organizations they are simply words on posters on the wall that everyone walks by, but no one pays attention to. In some organizations they are buried deep in a website, the policies and procedures manual or the 5 year strategic plan. Some organizations have so many that no one could ever remember them. Personally, I believe that three are the ideal number of core values.

A few organizations do a great job of making sure that the Core Values are an integral part of the culture. People know what they are and what they mean and use them as guiding principles in their day-to-day activities and their decision making. In these organizations leaders at all levels will reflect on decisions they are making and ask, “How does this decision support the Core Values of the organization?” When they talk about their decision making process, they reference the Core Values.

As a leader what are you doing on a regular basis to bring those values to life? Do you regularly highlight actions people in your area take that support the values? Do you have people on your team reflect on their life and cultural experiences, their influences and their personal values and explain what the organizational core values mean to them from that framework? Do you discuss how the organizations core values align with his or her personal values? Do you ask your people to share examples of things their peers have done recently to demonstrate one or more of the core values? When someone new joins your organization or your team, do you ask them to explain how they understand the core values and what they mean to them? Do you then explain how you use them in your leadership position?

Core Values should be an integral part of the culture in your organization, not a well kept secret that checks a box so we can say we have them if anyone asks.

Remember that leadership is a choice and a journey and it starts with you. Choose well, keep learning and enjoy the journey. The Dare to Be Great: Strategies for Creating a Culture of Leading online workshop was created for aspiring leaders and frontline leaders to help you on your leadership journey.

Brian Willis