They’re funny things, Core Values. They seem to have adorned more mugs, pens and mouse mats over the years than I can remember. All this effort, excitement and expense, yet the values they’re designed to embed so often fizzle out quicker than a box of cheap fireworks.
Core Values, well designed and embedded, can be the life-force of an organisation. They provide a compass for decisions and behaviours, they give a sense of belonging and purpose and they sit at the very heart of your culture.
So why do so many company core values fall flat? Here’s what I think…
My 5 Top Reasons Why Core Values Become No More Than The Writing On The Wall
1. The people at the top hand over responsibility for creating and embedding the Core Values to the Training, Marketing or Communications team, so they can go back to focusing on the important stuff like efficiencies, sales and profit… like they’re not linked. If the top team aren’t connected and committed to your core values, then you’re doomed to failure.
2. The values were dreamed up on a generic bed of buzzwords like Trustworthy, Open, Robust, Pioneering, United – They’re lovely strong words but they won’t light the fire in the belly of your people and they certainly won’t be unique to your company.
3. Your Core Values aren’t realistically who you are. They just sound good. Before you pluck those values out of the air, or nick them from the ‘best in class’ you found on the internet, have a good dig around your own organisation. See what you’re already passionate about and good at and then build on that.
4. Apart from the new lovely pictures of the values across the walls, the new email signature and the revamp of the annual review process, there’s no shift-change. Everything stays broadly the same and everyone is expected to drop their long-held habits and evolve into something new. If you’re serious about your core values, you need to properly evaluate what you do now, put a plan of action in place that’s more solid than a ‘Vision’ and then stick to it and see it through.
5. Embedding your values is often rolled out as a show-and-tell exercise. But a suggestions box isn’t going to drum up ideas, a training course in customer service won’t make your people customer-led. If you have a capable management team, they should be executing a plan of change which involves collaboration, discussion, mentoring and support.
Make your values uniquely who you are, lead from the top, unplug the corporate and never, ever tick the ‘completed’ box. Only then will your values have a hope of driving your culture.