Key learning outcomes:

  • Recognise that core values set the standard of behavior for your business and its employees.
  • Distinguish between “espoused” and “enacted” values.
  • Learn that shared or agreed values will contribute to your business’s or team’s success.
  • Establish a process for embedding agreed core values in your business’s day-to-day operations.

Article:

What are core values?

Our personal values are the guiding principals that dictate our behaviour and actions. Likewise in a business, core values are the fundamental beliefs that guide how those within the business should conduct themselves. You will often find the core values of a business in a mission statement. They can tell you a lot about the standard of behaviour a business expects from their employees and they set a level of expectation for the customer.

Espoused versus enacted?

By sharing the core values of your business you set expectations for both your team and your customers. These values are what are known as the “espoused values”; they are the standards that the business aspires to and wants to operate within. For example, a business may have “green” as a core value. Someone who sees this value  would expect that the business is operating in an environmentally friendly way as this behaviour has been espoused as one of the core values.[wlm_ismember]

How the business actually operates makes up the “enacted” values. Take as an example the business with green as one of its core values. If a customer found that this business used harsh cleaning chemicals or failed to recycle their rubbish, they would probably think the business was not enacting the value that they had espoused. It is essential in business to understand that the values you share as your core values are those that you should truly believe in and that you can enact on a daily business. Core values are much more than just a set of words; they are the standard for how you should do business every single day.

Shared values

For any business or team to be successful they need to have shared and agreed values. This is not to say that all of a team’s personal values will be or need to be the same. However, from a business perspective they need to operate from agreed and shared values. For example, if a team has a core value of being “hard working” and the majority of the team share and agree to this core value, it is easy to imagine that a new team member who does not share hard work as a value is unlikely to fit in. Often when someone leaves a business or team, the issue is not their skills or knowledge, but a mismatch of core values. The best way to ensure that your values are shared and agreed is to work through the exercise we outline below with your entire team. Then, when someone new joins your business or team, include discussion on values as part of your interviewing process. Explain clearly what your business values are to ensure the potential new employee is comfortable with them.

How do we determine our core values?

In this exercise we show you how you can determine a group’s or team’s core values.

Step One: Explain the values concept

Explain what core values are by sharing the theory we have given you at the beginning of this article. The following is a simple example you can use to illustrate how values shape behaviour. It explains honesty as a value.

Ask your team to imagine someone in front of them drops a $50 note. A person who holds honesty as a core value will pick the money up and chase after the person who dropped it. If they cannot find the person they will hand the $50 note over to someone of authority. The thought of keeping the money does not enter their mind.

A person who values honesty but who does not hold honesty as a core value might make a good attempt to find the person, but ultimately if they could not give the money back they might keep it. They will not feel 100 per cent comfortable with this decision, but they would justify it by believing that they did the best they could to do the right thing.

For someone who does not value honesty at all, it is most likely they will pick up the money, make sure no one saw them and make no attempt to give it back. They might feel bad for the other person, but will use the finders keepers rule as justification. It is important to note that not all values are positive and we might have someone who has dishonesty as a core value. This person would actively try to collect the money for themselves with no thought or consideration for the person who lost it.

Step Two: Short list

Ask everyone in the group to individually write down 5 to 10 of their core values. If you need some inspiration, you will find a list of values available for you to download at the top of this article. Once this is done make a list of all of the individual values using a whiteboard or large piece of paper. You might find several are similar, but it is important to write all of them down. You will now have a short list of values.

For example:

TRUST

RESPECT

SERVICE

HONESTY

LEARNING

KNOWLEDGE

ETHICAL

PROFESSIONAL

DRIVEN

RESULTS

LOYALTY

SUPPORTIVE

CONSISTENT

EFFICIENT

FAMILY

INTEGRITY

ADAPTABLE

HARD WORKING

 

Step Three: Determine the shared values

Next, ask everyone in the group to pick and share their top five values from the list on the board. Place a mark next to each one that is mentioned. You will find that there will be a few standout values that are shared among the majority of the team; some that only one or two team members share; and some that no one has included in their top five. The list will now look something like this.

TRUST  ✓✓✓

RESPECT

SERVICE  ✓

HONESTY

LEARNING

KNOWLEDGE  ✓

ETHICAL  ✓✓

PROFESSIONAL  ✓✓✓✓✓

DRIVEN  ✓✓

RESULTS  ✓✓

LOYALTY

SUPPORTIVE  ✓✓

CONSISTENT  ✓

EFFICIENT

FAMILY

INTEGRITY  ✓✓✓

ADAPTABLE  ✓✓

HARD WORKING  ✓✓✓✓

 

Step Four: Determine the core values

The aim is to narrow the list down to five core values that the group want to adopt. One or two values may be clear winners. In our example, professional and hardworking are standouts. Once there is agreement that they are in the top five, circle them on your board. It is now important to lead a discussion about which other three will make the top five. It is important for the group to discuss each one in turn as they may have one or two values that are similar, such as ethical, integrity and trust in the example above. The group should decide which is the best fit. It may be that through discussion the group agrees to include a value that on first glance might not have been a top five contender. At the conclusion you should have a list that looks like this:

TRUST  ✓✓✓

RESPECT

SERVICE  ✓

HONESTY

LEARNING

KNOWLEDGE  ✓

ETHICAL  ✓✓

PROFESSIONAL  ✓✓✓✓✓

DRIVEN  ✓✓

RESULTS  ✓✓

LOYALTY

SUPPORTIVE  ✓✓

CONSISTENT  ✓

EFFICIENT

FAMILY

INTEGRITY  ✓✓✓

ADAPTABLE  ✓✓

HARD WORKING  ✓✓✓✓

 

Embedding the values

Once you have determined your core values, you can look at how you can embed them into your daily business practices. This can be a good time to set some team standards that everyone will agree to and work towards. You might also want to think about how you will communicate these values to your customers, and look for tangible ways you and your team can enact them. The most important thing to remember about values is that it is not about how good they might sound in a mission statement, but how they translate into actions and behaviours.[/wlm_ismember]

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