People all have their own raisons d’etre, their reasons for going through life. Core values are part of what guides those, giving you principles with which to navigate this strange road of life. Core values play important roles in personal development, but they can be just as important in guiding the movements, partnerships, and employees within companies and organizations.
Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization. These guiding principles dictate behavior and can help people understand the difference between right and wrong or otherwise navigate the difficult challenges of life.
Core values within companies can help to determine the right path and fulfill goals. Naming core values within your company or organization gives you concrete principles that all employees can use as a guide for their specific roles and for the larger work culture. There are many examples of core values in the world, depending on the context.
Core values aren't always personal. Many companies find it helpful to draft a values statement that highlights values the company seeks to follow and expects from its employees. Corporate values can impact business practices and the overall organizational culture.
The way an organization conducts business is greatly impacted by the company's core values. These values impact what products or services a company offers and how they are produced and/or brought to market.
- constantly improving
- high performing
- market leading
When companies refer to core values, these are the guiding principles that help to define how the corporation should behave in business and perhaps beyond, if they have an additional mission to serve the community.
Core values usually complement the corporation's mission statement. There are many examples of common core values for a business or other type of organization.
- A commitment to sustainability and to acting in an environmentally friendly way. (Companies like Patagonia and Ben & Jerry's have environmental sustainability as a core value.)
- A commitment to innovation and excellence. (Apple Computer is perhaps best known for having a commitment to innovation as a core value. This is embodied by their "Think Different" motto.)
- A commitment to doing good for the whole. (Google, for example, believes in making a great search engine and building a great company without being evil.)
- A commitment to helping those less fortunate. (TOMS shoe company gives away a pair of shoes to a needy person for every pair it sells in an effort to alleviate poverty and make life better for others.)
- A commitment to building strong communities. (Shell oil company donates millions of dollars to the University of Texas to improve student education and to match employee charitable donations.)
As you can see, often the core values that companies have are similar to those that individuals might choose as guiding principles as well.
There are countless types of personal values, and you'll need to choose the ones that are right for you. It’s natural to want to choose a long list of core values in an effort to be the best you can be, but limiting your selection to a few helps you really focus on the most integral values in life without becoming distracted.
The way a person acts and treats others is impacted by the individual's core values. Others often interpret a person's core values as examples of personality traits.
- concerned for others
- good humored
Core values also impact which rights and causes tend to matter the most to a person.
- animal rights advocate
- civil disobedience
- community development
- giving back
- historic preservation
- human rights
- individual liberties
- nurturing the next generation
- respect for individuals
- rule of law
- social justice
- stand up for the underdog
- support for the arts
Seeing a list of potential core values is one thing, but writing a core value statement is daunting for any person or organization. How do you boil down your central beliefs or the central beliefs of your organization? It’s not easy, but it’s also not meant to be easy. With a little guidance and plenty of thought, you can write meaningful core values for your organization.
Do what they call a brain dump. Ask yourself what’s important.
- Is it flexibility at work?
- Is it about creative, new ideas no one’s thought about before?
- Is it an air of excitement?
As the ideas start to pour out of your mind, write each concept on a separate index card. Don’t worry if you have ten or thirty ideas. Don’t censor anything you’re thinking at this stage. Just write. Write freely and envision the company of your wildest dreams. After, you can arrange, consolidate, and rank the cards as you see fit.
While you can have deeper discussions about what your core values mean to your organization and employees, you should generally keep your core values as clear and concise as possible. You want to keep the core values short because shorter often means easier to memorize.
It can be easy to just have a single word or some sort of abstract, philosophical core value statement that you think encapsulates your entire organization, but a statement like “helpful” or “We live to serve people” doesn’t have any real inherent action or value to it.
Create core value statements that feel actionable. You can do this by using action verbs in your statements. For example, you could say “We speak up for others” as a show of how specifically you want to help others.
This does depend on your general brand voice, but don’t be afraid to make your core value statements fun. This keeps them memorable, but more importantly, keeping it fun ensures that it’s truly unique and in your brand’s voice.
To get a sense of your company’s core values, consider what matters to you and your team on an individual level. What is the impact that you want your company to make on the world? Or consider outside perspectives. When someone else thinks about your organization, what do you hope they remember you for?
If you can articulate those answers, you’ll likely see a pattern that you can boil down into a single concept, such as a consistently positive attitude or using your creativity to make the world a better place. Once you have a value statement, focus on learning the difference between ethics, morals, and values.