Have you ever thought carefully about what your core values are? These are the things that you really, truly believe deep down and actually live by day-to-day. Could you name them? If put on the spot, I think most people could give a reasonably honest answer when speaking in a personal capacity. But it takes a bit more thought to do the same for a whole company or organization involved in the complicated, high-pressure business of exceeding its members’ or customers’ expectations, planning for the future and keeping the lights on.
Even so, John DeHart thinks carving out some serious time to articulate and embed your organizations’ core values is worth every minute. DeHart is the co-founder of Nurse Next Door Home Care and I was at a presentation he gave in February in Vancouver on “How to unlock the (super) power of core values.”
DeHart defined these as the hardcore, non-negotiable rules of how you do things as a company or association. According to DeHart, every decision, big or small, should be filtered through those core values so you always know what to do in any given situation. Here are a few takeaways I got from his excellent presentation:
- Pick only a few genuine, realistic and powerful core values
Less is more when it comes to core values. Pick three or four of the things that are most important and define them briefly and powerfully so that everybody in the company knows them inside out and can easily remember them. To prevent them from “dying on the wall”, DeHart advised constant repetition and reinforcement. He said that core values aren’t “what you think they should be; they’re what you already, passionately are.”
- Hire people based on them
When hiring people, place as much importance on their fit with your organization’s core values as you do on their ability to do the job. To do that, you need to take the time to find out as much about them as possible. Have separate interviewers for interviews on a) expertise and b) core values. That way you’re not dazzled by an interviewee’s abilities at the expense of a good culture fit. Pretty soon, DeHart says, you will get used to recognizing people who share your organizations’ values. Your employees will too and they’ll police them for you.
- The same goes for firing people
DeHart said the biggest test often comes when you have to ask yourself whether you’re prepared to fire somebody who performs great but doesn’t live by your core values. Because you should. If you don’t, everybody else will think they can get away with not living the core values and they don’t mean anything. One person can ruin a whole culture and you should be prepared to defend your organization’s culture no matter what – even if that means turning down a potential client or letting somebody go who brings in lots of business.
It was an inspiring presentation for me and it got me to articulate our own core values at Sea to Sky, and here they are:
We understand business fundamentals and finances, and protecting and growing our clients’ interests
We look to the future, plan carefully and effectively organize our work
We take innovation seriously and deliver through solving challenges
We are effective when we work together and help each other
Live by results
We go the extra mile, we always give our best, and we care about our results
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