It’s become trendy in recent years to develop core values or corporate value statements and then share them with your constituencies, but to what end? Books, like Gino Wickman’s Traction have been written about how to create them and what they should look like, but sometimes it’s hard to nail down why they’re important at all.
First, let’s define what they are. We’ll use Gino Wickman’s definition: “Core Values are a small set of essential, enduring principles that define your culture.”
Captured in a few simple words that are easy to remember and articulate, these principles should demonstrate what sets you apart as a company. They also serve to guide how everyone in your organization is to operate in order to succeed in your company. Here are 5 reasons they’re so important to your business:
By nature, core values distill. You have to limit your values to a few key words that define your culture, and how your employees should operate to achieve your vision. You’re forced to make a decision about what matters most in that journey. Remove things that you don’t require of everyone in your organization. If we’re all focused on these few behaviors, they should guide us and keep us on track toward the prize.
If we’re all operating under the same set of standards towards a common mission, it will create unity. You’d be surprised at the clarity that’s created when you tell everyone what you expect of them. Maybe your organization isn’t acting like one unit because no one has ever told them how to act. Articulating your values brings unity because it forces everyone to hold themselves up to your values like a mirror. Anyone who isn’t unified to your core value is going to stand out like a sore thumb. You need a tribe of customers and employees who are attracted to your organization because of your values. How can that happen if they’re not articulated?
Clear values become the bar for what is acceptable in your organization. If that bar is not documented, championed, and followed, then there’s no way you will get consistent actions or results from your team. Without clear values, the way to behave is up to each person to decide, and at that point inconsistency is unavoidable. Core values are standards, and standards create repeatable behaviors.
Businesses need repeatable, scalable processes to rise from one level of success to another. Core values are one piece of creating a repeatable, scalable system. They allow people in your organization to make good decisions on their own by simply applying your values to new challenges that come along. Your core values will remove bottlenecks and empower individual growth across your organization. That type of engagement raises the capacity of your entire company, which will take your business to the next level.
Clarity creates movement and energy. Clear core values let people know what you expect and what they should be thinking about when they show up every day. In a way, it’s a shortcut. When you get everyone in your organization thinking about the same goal and doing it the same way, momentum is inevitable. That’s what clearly defined core values will deliver. It takes work, and if you’re willing to do it for the long haul it will change your culture for the better.
In the end, your core values force you to take a stand for your business and why it exists. This simple, yet difficult, step will create so many positive outcomes for your business. Sure, any change can be difficult, but it’s going to set the foundation for growth in the long run.
Aaron McClung is the founder and principal of AM, a full-service branding, marketing, and technology firm in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Its proprietary Ovrflo™ process helps businesses develop their core values.