“As we grow as a company, it has become more and more important to explicitly define the core values from which we develop our culture, our brand, and our business strategies.” ~Zappos
Core Values. We write and talk about them a lot these days. We plaster them on our desks and walls. But do we really understand them? Do we live by them? We say, “What is most important to you?” “What are our core values?” “We need to determine our core values.”
“Through the years these simple, yet powerful values have continually guided our decision making as well as our interactions with our clients and each other.” ~William D. Green, Chairman, Accenture
Quick now, write them down. Can’t do it, can you. At least, most people cannot. You may say, “My values are implicit; I’ve never written them down.” “Well, I try to live by the Golden Rule.” (Really? What about the people who don’t want to be treated the way you like to be treated?) You probably can recite the values of the organization for which you work more readily than you an cite your own core values.
Core values underlie who we are, what we do and why we do it – even if we are unaware of our guiding values. When we stay “true to our values” others can determine that we represent exactly who we say we are. Therefore, being cognizant of and intentional about our values is important. Values are the source of integrity. Living a value-driven life requires courage. Yet, very few individuals really have considered the values around which their character, behavior, decision-making, priorities and plans are determined.
“Teach For America‘s core values reflect how we as an organization want our staff to operate, individually and collectively. Our core values are central to our culture and represent the style of operating that we believe to be critical for moving us most quickly and purposefully toward our goals.”
While there are many examples of organizations that really are defined by their core values, my concern is that many more merely have “completed the exercise” of writing core values, or stated values are lost in translation into the daily attitudes and habits of behavior of daily interaction with customers and colleagues. (Maybe it’s because they don’t understand the value of Core Values in the first place? The National Park Service at least provides a great explanation.)
Seth Godin recently asked us to “Meet the ethical placebo: a powerfully effective faux medication that meets all the standards of informed consent.” I think this well-known medical research practice, which Godin abstrusely connects to marketing, also might apply to values, however. That’s why I encourage people to try practicing a “Value a Day“. Whether the value is real for you now or not, intentionally focusing your daily choices with a specific value in mind will eventually lodge that value at the core of your being.
In other words – whether you are known for them already or aspire to them daily – Core Values are your ticket to The Intersection of Purpose and Now.