There is a lot of talk about core vales being essential to the success of a business, but what are we really talking about here, what are they and how do we know if we have the right ones? Core values by their definition are the inherent beliefs of an individual or groups of people. The key word in that definition is “inherent” meaning they are fundamental to who that person is, it is the foundation of everything they believe.
The challenge then for business owners is not to just hire anyone and then “change them” to their way of thinking, they have to go and find like minded individuals that already believe what the company believes. The problem around core values is, because they are beliefs and nobody has the right to change the beliefs of another employers, have to get this right first time.
When looking at the problems with bad hires, when issues arise, the majority of the time those issues are not due to a lack of skill (those can be trained), its not due to a lack of qualifications it is usually around attitude or to be exact bad attitude. Now most of us go to work to do a good job, very few of us would be lying in bed in the morning just after the alarm has woken us up, thinking to oursleves “who can I piss off today, Bill, yes Bill, I haven’t upset him for a while, right that’s decided it’s pick on Bill day today”. That’s not how the vast majority of us are wired, so where does the problem come from.
The problem arises when we have different beliefs around how we should conduct ourselves, do we believe we should always be on time, always be respectful of others, always question whether this is the best way or always think of others first. If we don’t hold these things in high regard but the company does then there is going to be a problem in how we behave in those areas.
So how do we know the values we have are the right ones or if we haven’t identified them yet, how will we know they are right when we put our minds to it? There are three questions we need to ask ourselves once we think we have them right.
- Would we fire a consistent offender? The biggest problems we have with employees are those that consistently do not live the values, they cause so much stress to the rest of the people around them, there is only one option for the business and that is to move them on. Let them find another company that they are more aligned too. If you can look at your core values and say confidently answer a resounding yes to this question then they are right.
- Would you take a financial hit? Rather than compromise any of your values. Again this could be a situation around your suppliers, if they are consistently pushing back against some or all of your values, would you go to another supplier who may charge you more for their goods but dealing with them is so much easier. If you have a client that proves to be nothing but a problem, hard to deal with, always screws you down in price, doesn’t appreciate the value of what you provide them or doesn’t pay their bills on time, would you fire them. If the answer is yes to those two scenarios then what you have in front of you are true values.
- Are they alive in the organisation? This is the hardest question to answer. Being alive in the organisation means are they visible to all the employees and are they part of the every day language of the business. This last point is crucial, core values should be phrases not one word statements, they should be phrases that the leadership use all the time, that way it is easier to have in day to day conversation thus is makes it easier to come alive in the business. For example “Education” is extremely important in what we do, if we do not keep up to speed with the latest thinking in business we will quickly become obsolete as coaches, but we do not go around talking about education, education, education, we have a phrase that we always use and that is “every day’s a school day” meaning we are always learning. It’s the phrase that holds the relevance and power not a single word.
What are your core values and do they stand up to these three questions?