You just paid a “marketing professional” to help. They sit you down and tell you that it would look really good if you came up with some core values to put on your website. Together you come up with a few words that sound and look impressive. Words like “integrity,” “fun” and “customer service.” Problem solved. Or is it?
Gossiping, politics, insubordination, lack of productivity, bad hires and many other passion-sucking problems you deal with on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis can all be narrowed down to one thing…a lack of R-E-A-L core values.
Unfortunately, most companies look at core values as a nice exercise they once did at a weekend seminar. Many, like the example above, have created their core values by choosing generic words their marketing person told them would look good on a business card or their website.
However, that is NOT what true core values are meant to be. Not if you want them to actually help grow your team, your referrals and, ultimately, your business.
When done right, core values are the road map to your success and will guide you to the vision you have, or should have, for both your business and your life.
Take a moment and consider how you currently make decisions in your business or at home.
When it comes to hiring or firing your team members, what is the decision predicated on? Not sometimes, but every time.
At home, how do you and your spouse determine what to spend money on, how much to save, what experiences you want to have as a family or even what you expect from your kids?
Are you consistent with your decisions based upon your values, or are you like 95% of people and make them based on your current mood or current emotions?
When you have true core values, the decisions are always made not on your mood or emotions but from a place of true integrity.
Core values that actually are, well, valued can bring newfound life into your business and personal life. But only if they’re strong, mean something and are congruent with how you and your team show up every day.
How can you tell if the core values you choose are strong?
There’s a little test I like to do with my clients called the “Well, I would hope so” test. If you can say, “Well, I would hope so” after hearing it, it’s not strong enough.
This simple test lets you see if what they claim to be core values are basic, bland, corporate-sounding platitudes or if they pack some meaning behind them, hold them to a higher standard and, above all else, make a commitment statement.
Let me explain.
Say “We are honest” is one of your core values. Is it REAL? I’m not asking if it is true because, although we have never met, I am going to assume that you are an honest business owner. However, does it really tell me how you are different than the other business down the street that also claims to be “honest”? No, not really.
Why? Because every business out there will claim to be honest. That should be a basic assumption of doing business, yet not something that actually sets you apart from others.
Short answer. It doesn’t.
However, if you wanted to go beyond the trite “We are honest” and separate your business from the competition as well as make a way to hold your team to a higher standard, you could create a REAL core value where your company guarantees “radical transparency” to their clients.
If you were a potential customer deciding between a company that promised “radical transparency” vs. your competitors’ “We are honest,” which one would you be inclined to give your business to?
You probably get the point, but, because I like to drive points home, let’s look at one of my favorites: the oft claimed “great customer service” as a core value.
If you put it to the “I would hope so test,” does it pass? Again, who doesn’t say that in their business?
So, how could you make it real? How could you make it pack some meaning with it?
What if instead of stating that you give “great customer service” you declare that you are committed to being “the BEST part of our customer’s day” or “We WOW our clients, every time.”
See how these speak beyond just a basic level of “great customer service” and deliver a commitment both to how you show up for your customers and as a team?!
This is why I call it your roadmap. When you have values like these, the way you make decisions in all the areas of your life and your business becomes much easier and more clear. As a leader it even allows you to empower your team to make great decisions.
Let me give you an example of a business owner who was able to do just that. An orthodontist client of mine told me this story about how having real core values took a weight off his shoulders and helped his team make an otherwise tough decision.
This orthodontist had made the switch from being a preferred provider to no insurance. A particular family had already been in for one child’s braces, but now their second child needed the same treatment. The mother was upset that the discount she got for her first child years ago was no longer valid for her second. She called to lodge a complaint.
In an effort to appease the mother, the office manager and a couple of other teammates went to this orthodontist and explained her unique situation. Based on one of their core values, “superhero empowerment,” he allowed them to make the decision. They decided to honor the discount for her.
When the office manager called the mother to tell her the good news, the mother retorted with a list of new demands – demands that were far above and beyond the regular scope of treatment.
The office manager went back to the orthodontist, confused at what to do now. This orthodontist simply replied, “When you made the original offer, were you guided by our core values? What about her new demands?”
The manager was instructed to talk it over with her teammates and make a decision based on the core values of the office. What did they decide?
No, this lady’s new demands would not be accepted. If she chose to see another office for her son’s treatment, that would be fine. But only the original discount would be given.
Because this orthodontist had his core values laid out, his team could make an executive decision without his time or energy being wasted. His team had the power to evaluate the situation at hand and make the right decision.
Your core values give you your answers to every question. When you have your personal core values detailed, you can turn to them any time you’re unsure of what to do next. And, yes, you should have your own personal core values as well as core values for your company.
Your core values will make those difficult questions seem cut-and-dry. When you make a decision based on your core values, you’re not only standing up for what you believe in, you’re showing the rest of the world that you know what you’re doing and who you are.
You’re stepping into your role as a leader, as someone other people can look up to. Your core values will take you from good to great.