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How to Make Core Values Matter at Your Organization

December 7, 2020

What are your core values? More importantly, do you know why core values matter and how to use them to drive operational excellence as well as bottom line results for your business?  

Here, I share the four core values we live by at Brokers International and how we make them matter by incorporating them into performance reviews, company culture and operational decisions.

What are core values and why do they matter? 

Core values are the guiding principles of an organization. Lots of businesses have a core values list, but most don’t use them or operate by them.

I’ve learned that when you effectively and consistently communicate your core values, and tie your core values to employees’ everyday work, they really can drive bottom line results for your business. That’s why core values matter.   

Let me explain with some core values examples from my own experience. 

Core Values Examples and How to Tie Them to Your Operations 

At Brokers International, we hold ourselves accountable to four core values: 

I’ll dive into each of those and show how we reinforce them and use them to create the kind of culture we need to succeed.  

Core Values in Action – How We Tie Teamwork to Rewards and Results 

We value diverse teams with a positive attitude and employees who collaborate with others for the greater good. We expect employees to actively listen to each other, challenge one another and work to complement one another.  

We reinforce that core value, as well as our other three values, by making it part of every employee’s performance review. As CEO, teamwork is part of my performance review as well. 

We manage and reward employees based on how well they display teamwork. We reward people for good teamwork and manage them toward collaboration and accountability when they display a lack of teamwork. 

Let me give an example.  

Let’s say a department is responsible for achieving a sales or operational goal. Everyone involved is briefed of the goal and develops milestones, tasks and a deadline for accomplishing that goal. If one of the team members becomes overwhelmed with other work, he or she should take the initiative to ask a team member to take over their goal responsibilities for a period of time so that the entire team can stay on track.  

Because teamwork is one of our core values, asking for help is not seen as a sign of weakness. We don’t value rugged individualism. Rather, we have decided that collaboration is critical to our continued success as an organization. To go it alone when you know that doing so will hurt your entire team is to make a decision out of alignment with our core values and corporate culture. 

In that employee’s performance review, the manager will be expected to discuss the decision with the employee and explain how a different decision would have been a more beneficial one. This gives the employee an opportunity to adapt their thinking and align their behavior with our stated core values.  

That kind of alignment of core values with operational behavior is very different from simply telling each other that you value teamwork. Tying values to rewards and results is what gives core values their true value.  

Should core values ever change? 

I am commonly asked how often companies should update their core values. I believe the answer is tied to how you created your core values in the first place.  

Core values define the values of the company. They exist to direct employees to the attitude necessary to carry out the organization’s mission statement. Ideally, your core values should support your reason for existing and help you live that reason out.  

Now, some would say every business exists to make money and while that’s true, it’s not always enough to sustain growth or, more importantly, a positive, fulfilling work environment.

At Brokers International, we believe that we exist to help those who partner with us build their businesses. Our core values support our efforts to live that out. We attempt to hire, manage, reward and recognize around our core values, because we know that as we do so, we will live our mission statement.

If your core values were created with that in mind, you shouldn’t need to change them drastically unless you drastically alter the nature of your business or service model. Sometimes, business leaders errantly conclude that if business results aren’t being accomplished, the problem must be the core values. That’s not necessarily the case. What’s more likely is that the core values are being ignored. 

If you are truly managing to your core values, you should have a compelling reason for changing them. We review our core values on an annual basis, asking if our business model has changed to the point where our values must change to support the new model. In four years’ time, we haven’t needed to change our values yet. The key question at annual review time is not, “Do we need new values? but rather, “Are we managing toward them? 

Are you actively managing to your core values? If not, now is the perfect time to start.

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