Core values are the guiding principles — the North Star — of a company. When its values aren’t clearly defined and articulated, a company starts to wander off course, to lose its way. An accidental culture starts to emerge that almost always includes a great many ingrained bad habits, bad attitudes and bad performance.
Every CEO needs to take the time to define, write down, and share the company’s core values with each and every employee. Don’t just assume that everyone knows what they are. Early in a company’s life this might be the case: employees can learn the core values by osmosis, just from working in close proximity to the CEO. However, as a company grows, the CEO can no longer easily pass those values on to the ever-growing workforce. The company’s values must be clearly articulated — and lived by — in order for new employees to understand and adopt them (and for more senior employees not to lose sight of them).
Having well-defined and lived core values improves decision making, behavior, and overall performance. If employees have a clear set of values to guide their thinking and actions, their decisions will all be in line with the company’s culture and expectations. If they see what values are continually rewarded by leadership, they will know how to act and behave on the job. And if they make better decisions and behave appropriately, their performance will automatically improve. So will the company’s. Core values already exist at your company. It’s your job to uncover them, define them, share them, and practice them. Just posting them on the wall is not enough. You have to live by these values. Hire and fire by these values. Tell stories about these values in action. Reward employees who clearly exhibit these values. And most importantly, never compromise these values.
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