All companies benefit from having defined core values that drive their employees to achieve.
Jim Collins, in his canonical leadership book From Good to Great outlined the traits that make the very best leaders who are able to weather adversity and come out stronger the other side. The difference between what he calls “Level 5 Leaders” and the rest is a focus on the mission of the organization above all else.
A focus on the core values has an immediate impact on culture. Employees are no longer clocking in and clocking out. They aren’t distracted by year end bonuses. They aren’t looking for another job. Instead, they are focused on achieving what matters to the company. This focus changes the way employees communicate, prioritize, and work.
For example, Amazon’s mission is to focus on the customer and put them first through offering amazing selection and prices. This focus influences so much at Amazon, from the product to warehousing to pricing. Aligning with the customer has allowed them to build one of the most valuable companies in history.
Given how important building core values and culture are to success, we asked several experts a simple question:
“How did your organization define its mission and core values, and how has it had an impact on your work?”
“To define our core values, inspired by the book Traction by Gino Wickman, we named the top three people in the organization, the kind of people we could conquer the world with if we could clone them. Then we asked ourselves, ‘What qualities about these people make them such rock stars?’ That’s how we uncovered our core values. Getting clear on this saved us and our people time and energy by only hiring and managing people who fit our culture and values like a glove.
We clarified our mission using the Entrepreneurial Operating System® methodology by breaking it down into two parts: defining our passion and identifying the niche in which we are the best in the world. Putting money aside, what is it about what we do that really gets us out of bed in the morning? We found that by staying true to our mission and not just saying yes to every opportunity or idea, we grew faster and more profitably than trying to be a jack of all trades.”
Keri Ohlrich, PhD, CEO Abbracci Group
“As an HR consulting firm, we wanted to be clear about who we were by defining what’s important to us. So, rather than approaching it from a standpoint of “mission” and “core values”, we defined it as “Who We Are” and “What We Believe.” We suggest that leaders brainstorm, think in the context of what you value, and what you don’ (as sometimes that helps you narrow your scope to the key cultural attributes that matter). Once you’ve drafted your mission and/or values, get feedback by conducting focus group sessions with employees. Obtain their thoughts and determine if they agree or if they have ideas on how to improve upon what’s been drafted. This is great way to show your employees you care about their opinions, while allowing them to invest in the process and generate excitement once they’re eventually launched.
Once adopted, company mission and core values are the basis of which decisions should be based. When training programs are created, are they fulfilling at least one or more of the core values and working in celebration of the mission of the organization? Does the decision to acquire a new business unit meet the core values from which our company is guided?”
Jenna Carson, HR Director at Music Grotto
“We wanted our core values to be an easy roadmap for current and future team members to follow which would make sure we were all acting in the way we want our company to come across. We wanted them to be authentic and simple, and easy to follow.
We thought it was best for a team to put the core values together to make sure they weren’t just showing one person’s point of view and we could combine the ideas of several people who really knew the business. We wanted the values to be concise and easy to remember, we didn’t feel we needed a complicated mission to show what we do…