Identifying the values at your core
Can often seems like quite a chore
But it’s not the words that most matter
Without action, they are just chatter
Driving behavior is what they are for
It's not unusual to see eyes roll when talk turns to mission or core values during a strategy retreat or staff workshop. Unfortunately, in many organizations, conversation around core values is primarily associated with painful wordsmithing.
In the seminal work Built to Last, co-authors Jim Collins and Jerry Porras assert that 80-90% of a leader's time should be focused on ensuring alignment between core ideology (mission or purpose and values) and the envisioned future. If what you stand for and why you exist isn't understood and embodied in the thinking and actions of every individual throughout your organization, much of the activity that occurs each day will lack the appropriate level of intention, meaning, and impact.
To ensure the integrity of the experience they offer their customers and stakeholders, smart organizations craft brief narratives that expand on the values selected. They should be prescriptive enough to bring a value to life, yet open to enough interpretation so that individuals can own them authentically.
Here's a sample core values statement from my last consulting practice (like minded people) where I was a co-founder, the alignment mechanisms for one of the values, and some tips on crafting your own core values statement. And check out the June 2011 issue of Inc. magazine for some great examples of how small businesses put their core values into action. Finally, here is an earlier post about core values.