Core Values can be a keystone of your company culture. When done properly, they guide behaviors and let your team members know what is expected of them. But there are hazards in developing Core Values, the primary one being not following them once they are established, documented, and published.
Patrick M. Lencioni writes in Harvard Business Review, “If you’re not willing to accept the pain real values incur, don’t bother going to the trouble of formulating a values statement”. And he’s exactly right. If you are not planning on committing, truly committing, to the company’s core values, you will undermine your own credibility while also undermining the culture of your company.
Another mistake companies consistently make is developing what I call “aspirational core values”. They develop core values for what they want, not where they are. If it really, truly mattered, if those values were truly “core” to the company, then they would be enforcing those behaviors already. Setting aspirational core values carries the risk of tolerating people who do not live those values, and in that way signalling to other members of the team that they are not truly important. And if one isn’t important, then none of them are. At least that can turn into the perception. And perception is reality.
Knowing the risks, as well as the benefits, is important when taking on any strategic priority or initiative.
Read Patrick’s full article here: Make Your Values Mean Something. It’s from 2002, and still just as relevant today.
What are your experiences with company Core Values? (Reply below.)