Recap on the Basics of Core Values
Core Values are the principles of behavior that are central and defining to your organization. They are your non-negotiables, and they apply to each person in the organization. This article provides tips on how to better communicate core values of your organization.
If you are starting your strategic planning from scratch, we recommend dedicating a specific process to articulating your values. Your values (and how consistently and authentically you live them) will, in large part, dictate the culture of your organization.
We have outlined a formula for how to write core values that will help them be as specific and actionable as possible. You can read more about how to write core values, and you can see some 40 examples of core values here.
How to Communicate Core Values
#1 Roll Them Out During Your Strategic Planning Process [Or Review Them]
Again, if your organization is working from scratch on its strategic plan, we would highly recommend dedicating a separate process—aside from your mission and vision statements—to determining your core values. This stage can be a great time to involve other members of the organization. For example, you could send out surveys to ask employees for their ideas about what behaviors exemplify the values you’ve identified. Use those answers in the anatomy of the core values to specify the behaviors you want to see.
If, on the other hand, you’ve already determined your core values as you set about the strategic planning process, great. This is a prime opportunity to review them and to ensure that your mission statement, vision statements, and goals are aligned with these core values. This can be a valuable check on your strategic planning process, and it can also give you better insight into your core values and whether they need to be revised for greater authenticity or specificity. Check out this post if you need help on how to identify your core values.
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#2 Ensure They’re in Your One-Page Strategic Plan!
Of course, your values themselves won’t do much good if they are not communicable. Remember that these values determine behavior for every single person in the organization, not just leadership. That means they need to be in a format that facilitates easy access and understanding.
If you have pages and pages of values, mixed in with other foundational elements of your strategic plan, you are likely to lose the essence of your values and strategic plan in general. We recommend keeping your list to 5-7 individual values. Along with making each values statement clear and concise, this will allow them to be placed on a single page with your mission and vision statement.
Design this single-page plan with clarity, simplicity, and attractiveness in mind. A one-page strategic plan is easy to distribute and refer to frequently.
#3 Put them Somewhere Visible
Brevity and clarity in your core values also enables you to display those values more effectively. Place copies of your core values statements in key places around your organization where you know they will be seen often. You don’t want them to be “out of sight, out of mind.” Having them visible to everyone on a daily basis not only makes sure they are remembered, but also communicates your commitment to them as an organization.
#4 Make a Core Values Playbook
We recommend creating a kind of playbook for each of your core values. This playbook would include a myriad of examples of that core value in action, making it
To the extent possible, frame these “plays” in the familiar context of your own company. That might mean you use real past examples of value-centered behavior from within your organization. This makes your values and desired behavior relatable and easy to visualize for each member of the organization.
How to Reinforce Your Core Values
#5 Integrate a Review into Your Staff Meeting
Core values are integral to company culture, and therefore should not be limited to a one-time discussion. Find ways to revisit and discuss your core values regularly. Preferably, these opportunities should make the values “real” by identifying specific and tangible behaviors that exemplify your values. You want to bridge the gap between theoretical, abstract language and actual behavior.
One method of reinforcing your core values is to include them in your regular staff meetings. For example, you might choose one core value to highlight as part of a weekly staff meeting at the beginning of each week. This gives your organization a chance to look for examples of that value throughout the week, so they can be positively called out in the staff meeting (more on that below).
#6 When You See Something that Represents Your Core Values, Call it Out!
It can be immensely powerful when organizational leadership calls out specific and positive examples of employees demonstrating core values. When you give public recognition, you are reinforcing behaviors you want to see across your organization. It is also a motivating experience for employees to feel seen and valued for their efforts. This is one way to communicate your values and your commitment to them.
Of course, there will be times that you need to address behaviors that don’t align with your organization’s core values. However, these conversations ought to be kept private.
Remember that, as a leader, your own actions are another important communication of your values. As you go about your day, look for ways that you can be an example of demonstrating core values in your work. Make the connection explicit by discussing how core values influence your decisions and behavior.
#7 Create a Dedicated Chat/Teams/Slack Channel
Besides formal meetings, you can send out periodic messaging dedicated to reinforcing core values through a separate channel on Slack, Teams, or other chat channel your organization uses regularly.
A dedicated chat channel is also a great place to call out positive examples of demonstrating core values—and here, you can communicate those positive reinforcements immediately, rather than waiting until the next weekly staff meeting.
How to Create Experiences with Your Core Values
#8 Create Experiences that Reinforce Your Values
Behaviors are motivated by belief, and beliefs are created through experience. As members of your organization have experiences that reinforce, reward, and exemplify core values, they will form and maintain beliefs about the organization and its values that encourage value-centered behavior.
This is why the creation of value-centered experiences must be conscious and intentional. In addition to folding your core values into their own daily actions, leaders will do well to go out of their way to create experiences that reinforce core values.
#9 Eliminate Experiences that Don’t Support Your Core Values
This discussion about creating experiences is especially important if you have noticed a trend in company culture that is concerning. When employee behaviors and attitudes are not reflecting the culture and values you envision, it means that, somewhere along the line, they have had experiences that created beliefs that motivated those behaviors.
For example, if an employee’s experience is that they receive bonuses for shipping more product, their belief is that it is the quantity of product they ship that is most highly valued. A resulting behavior might be that quality is sacrificed in order to ship product quickly.
Rooting out such experiences is best done explicitly, in continuing conversations with organization members. Your staff meetings and chat channels can be avenues for collecting data about team members’ experiences and beliefs about the way things are done or the way things ought to be done.
#10 Use Your Core Values as a Guidepost During the Decision-Making Process
Remember that core values, by nature, are definitional. You are not you, and your organization is not your organization, without these values. They are non-negotiable, and they run even deeper than your bottom line.
When making decisions as a leader, allow your core values to guide you. At times, it might mean sacrificing other things in favor of aligning with your values. However, this will communicate your core values and prompt positive cultural shift in powerful ways that ultimately drive success.
#11 Use Core Values as Your Decision-Making Framework
It doesn’t stop there. Not only should your values be an integral part of your decision-making process; they should also factor into the way you communicate those decisions. As you announce or discuss decisions with members of your organization, refer back to the values that influenced those decisions. This will help employees see how you use core values to make decisions and guide your own behavior. As a leader, they will refer to and live up to the example you set.