by Sara Luther
with all due respect...

It’s time to value your core values

Core values, bore values. I know, I know, you’re tired of the faux-values and façade-like actions.  Me too.  That’s why I’m asking you, what you’re doing about it?

MANY organizations have core values or guiding principles…or both.  Having them is assumed.  Living and breathing them is a challenge.  If you’re in senior leadership this needs to be a challenge you’re up to as there is something incredibly powerful about the aspirational goals an organization sets.

One dimensional words on posters in boardrooms make a statement.  Sitting in the boardroom and actually experiencing a meeting where people are given the opportunity to be seen and heard, where diverse voices are welcomed, and decisions are made through creative processes…well that’s the experience of a core value.

However, getting from A to B does not happen through magic wands and fairy dust (although I always have a wand handy).  Here are some questions I’m curious about for you:

  • Can you recall the organization’s core values with ease?
  • Do you know the origins of where they came from and who created them?
  • Are those core values tied to critical policies and procedures?
  • Are those core values connected to how you hire and retain? Run meetings? Solve conflict? Performance manage? Promote
  • Are your core values alive enough that stakeholders would call you out if they saw activities that were not aligned?

If you answered YES! YES! YES! Then I hope you are a Harvard Business Case Study, and wow I’d love to interview you.  If you’ve got a mix of Yes’s and No’s…then you are in the same boat as many where you’ve started the work, but there’s more work to be done.

Here’s one example. I have the great pleasure of working with an organization where the senior leadership team can recite the mission statement in unison.  The CEO has made a point of making it real and threading it across decisions about what they are doing and how they will do it.   So, when we started to re-imagine their approach and policy on respect, incivility, harassment and discrimination, intentionally connecting it to their core values was easy as their mothership of mission, vision and values had day-to-day meaning.

That’s the work I love to do.  Your core values are likely not unique (respect, trust, integrity, accountability, service-driven, innovation…) However, how you embed them into your systems and breathe them up and down the organization can, and should be unique.

So, if you call me wanting to explore policy work or post-investigation restoration efforts, or professional development…I’ll start by probing you on those questions above.  I look forward to the discussion!