Everybody’s got ’em. Or at least everybody says they do.
The tricky part about core values is that people see them as meaning different things and serving different purposes, so consequently, they can be either incredibly meaningful or incredibly pointless. Let me explain.
Some well-meaning folks list things like honesty, integrity, and so on as core values; and while I would agree that those are values that a business should embrace, I would argue that those are values that most people would sort of assume that a business would espouse. Those are what we might call expected or assumed values.
The problem with listing those as your organization’s core values is that they don’t do for your organization what you need core values to do. They don’t differentiate you. They don’t define you. They don’t carve out any sort of identity for you.
Here are just a few questions your core values should answer. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.
Do your core values do the following?
1. Do they tell people how you’re different from other organizations?
2. Do they tell employees how to work, interact, and behave?
3. Do they jive with your brand and reinforce your organization’s identity?
4. If they didn’t have your logo next to them, would people — especially employees — be able to pick them out as yours?
Though by no means an exhaustive list, these are just a few to get you thinking about whether or not your core values are doing the work they’re supposed to do for your organization. Remember, they’re supposed to help you form an identity. They’re part of who you are!