Core Values: Your Culture is Showing

By Dana Gillis, Executive Coach

Fall is finally here!!!! I for one get very excited when this time of year rolls around. Football, fall colors, cooler weather, and did I mention FOOTBALL?!?!?!?!? One thing many leaders do during this season is to take stock of the road traveled and make plans for the approaching new year.

The fall is a time for leaders to dust off strategic plans, review projections and see what adjustments need to be made to get to the finish line of the current year, while outlining strategy and setting goals for the year ahead.

In a previous post, Transcend COO Andrew Jennings made a case for refreshing organizational culture. As part of that process, Andrew suggested revisiting core values as a starting point for reshaping or revitalizing institutional culture. If stimulating corporate culture is the overarching goal, it would be helpful to get a better understanding of what constitutes core values, the capstone for organizational culture.

core values Simply defined, core values are those values and behaviors unique to an organization. Often, a corporate slogan is identified as a core value. A slogan is a line or phrase that is evocative of a challenge a company might be facing (“Quality is Job One”™). A core value is supported by and reinforces behaviors related to a particular value. The key to core values being understood and adopted by an organization is a clearly defined code of behavior that employees of the organization rally around and internalize as their own.

Our leadership development practice helps leaders build better teams based on Patrick Lencioni’s Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team. In looking at behaviors such as vulnerability based trust, constructive conflict, commitment, accountability, and results, a case could be made that these behaviors are, in fact, core values.

Values and behaviors share a symbiotic relationship. Values drive behavior; actions are reflective of values. Think of core values as those principles that are non-negotiable regarding expected organizational practices.

Team behavior should reflect your core values―principles that are non-negotiable as far as organizational practices.Click To Tweet

In your role as a leader, a good investment in time would be to explore whether or not the behaviors of your “team” are an accurate reflection of established core values. A beneficial place to start that exploration is a bit of self-reflection. Ask yourself a few basic questions:

  • What are the defined core values of my organization?
  • What are my personal values?
  • Where do my value conflict with organizational values?
    • How does a divergence between personal and organizational values impact my ability to lead?
  • Do my behaviors reflect the organization’s core values?
    • Do I “walk it as I talk it?”

Once you grapple with the big questions of self and values, observe the behaviors of members of your organization through the filter used for self-evaluation. If you discover a gap between established values and individual behaviors, either the organization has outgrown its values or more likely, there is a misalignment between values and behaviors. What might be required is a redefining of organizational values. Involving members of the organization in this process would increase the likelihood that behaviors and values more closely align with each other.

Fearless Leadership is values-based leadership.