Imagine you, as the leader, want to recreate the highest quality organization with the very best attributes on another planet…But you only have enough seats on the rocket ship for five people.
Who would you send?
They would most likely be people who:
- Exemplify the organization’s core values and purpose
- Have the highest level of credibility with their peers
- Possess the highest levels of competence
Core values are a foundational part of growing a business and building a winning team. But how can you be sure that you have identified your core values?
That’s a good question! And keep reading to discover a way to know for sure if a value is a core value!
Every leader can determine if their core values are truly authentic by answering seven questions.
Best-selling author Jim Collins, of Built to Last and Good to Great, developed the following questions to qualify if a value is truly a “core value”. If you answer with a resounding and unqualified “Yes!” to all seven questions, you’re looking at a Core Value!
1. If you were to start a new organization, would you build it around this core value regardless of the industry?
My Take: Your core values are unique to “who you are” regardless of what industry you are in or what product or service you offer.
In fact, the leaders of many great, enduring visionary companies decided on their core values before they even knew what products or services they were going to offer.
100 years strong
2. Would you want your organization to continue to stand for this core value 100 years into the future, no matter what changes occur in the outside world?
My Take: The visionary companies changed almost everything, like policies, procedures, product lines, competencies, organization structure, reward systems, strategies, tactics, and performance goals.
But since core values are “who you are”, they stand firm over time and never change.
Against all odds
3. Would you want your organization to hold this core value, even if at some point in time it became a competitive disadvantage — even if in some instances the environment penalized the organization for living this core value?
My Take: From my own leadership experience, I have found when I stood on what I believed (reflecting on “who I was”) and what I considered to be doing is the right thing, I have always been rewarded and never felt I was put to a competitive disadvantage.
Here’s an example: Even though I knew I could lose one of our company’s largest corporate customers, I confronted them over an “integrity” issue that also violated one of their own values. They eventually changed their position on the matter to align with our mutual values.
4. Do you believe that those who do not share this core value—those who breach it consistently — simply do not belong in your organization?
My Take: Jim Collins writes about getting “the wrong people off the bus”. He does not mean necessarily that these people are bad people.
He simply means they do not fit your organization, and they need to move on to another “bus” that fits them and where they can flourish.
5. Would you personally continue to hold this core value even if you were not rewarded for holding it?
My Take: This is about “who you are” and not if you are going to be rewarded or not. Our core values transcend compensation, profits, and recognition.
More than a job
6. Would you change jobs before giving up this core value?
My Take: Every person wants to have a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
The best way this occurs is when you get on the “right bus” with disciplined people of the same core values…And you’re sitting in the “right seat” on that bus.
7. If you awoke tomorrow with more than enough money to retire comfortably for the rest of your life, would you continue to apply this core value to your productive activities?
My Take: I am personally in this position right now, as I work in my “second half of life”.
One of my core values and passions is to “achieve significance”.
There is something inside me that I’ve got to “make a positive difference in people, for people, and through people.”
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV
That’s why I’m writing, speaking, teaching, and consulting based on my experiences.
People frequently confuse timeless core values — what you truly believe and have always believed bone-deep — with “aspirations” of what you or the organization to be like.
Aspirations can help you define your strategic vision of the future. But core values address how you think and behave, and who you are as you live and work.
Mixing future “aspirations” into your truly authentic core values could create in an organization justifiable cynicism and destroy the power of your core values.
The seven questions above help us validate our values – they help us really test to determine if a value is truly one of our core values!
With each of your core values, can you answer these seven questions with a resounding and unqualified “Yes!”? If you can’t, you may need to reconsider if it is truly core. Please let me hear your comments <here>.