Core values. You read about them on the internet. You hear them mentioned in company meetings. But how important are they in business, and do they actually work?
When established correctly, core values are the anchor for weathering any storm. They allow you to drive forward during challenging times, times of great change, uncertainty, and unpredictability. They also help in focusing energy, passion, and purpose more effectively.
To set core values that work for your organisation, start by looking inward. Who are you? What do you believe in? Most importantly, what do you present to the world? These are important questions to answer because, from company culture to profitability, setting authentic core values can drive overall success.
Authenticity facilitates alignment
Core values come naturally when they are established from a place of authenticity. Especially now, amid the global pandemic, it’s important for businesses to understand and truly be in alignment with the values they promote in order to be more authentic in areas where the impact of their success can be felt. A good example of this is if one of your core values is centred around wellbeing. If you’re able to truly marry that core value to how you actively present yourself as an empathetic leader, especially given that we’ve all been in the pandemic, it will show up strongly in how you lead your teams.
Core values are authentic to who you are. The more aligned you are with them, the more successful you will be, the more job satisfaction you will have, and the more you’ll be able to contribute as a professional and to the world in general.
Walk the walk
It’s one thing to write down core values that sound nice on paper. It’s another thing to actually live those values authentically. This is where many companies go wrong. They talk the talk but fail to walk the walk. Everyone can see when you are claiming inauthentic “performance values,” things you say but don’t act out. There are only words – no investment, no staff, and no resources to support the declared values. Companies that take this route are quickly called out and penalised in both the short and long term. Employee satisfaction declines, attrition grows, and brand value declines. People appreciate those who put their words into action. This is true whether your values are around family, integrity, respect, or anything else.
How my core value helped me lead
My strongest core value is respect because I believe it is the foundation of every relationship. I lead, coach, and mentor from a place of respect, and I use it to deliver my particular point of view. Everyone needs to feel heard and seen in conversations, but most importantly, they need to feel respected.
I took my job as a CMO during the global pandemic, so I’ve never met most of my team – they are based around the world, from the UK to Brazil to South Africa. Coming into the position, I knew that it was important for me to respect all the work the team had done before my arrival. I also respected all the varying time zones and the commitments everyone had to their families, mental health, and overall personal wellbeing.
Demonstrating my core value of respect was important because it allowed my team to trust me as someone who would ultimately provide a strategic vision for the company and allow them to grow in their careers to be successful in the future. Given all the unpredictability and uncertainty, this approach allowed me to break down the barriers of fear and doubt and the general concern of having a new boss. Because I led with that sense of respect and empathy, they saw that I was coming in to build on, nurture, and better the team – not take apart what they already had in place but improve it.
Put it into action
Not having core values is a recipe for disaster. Without them, you’ll find yourself constantly responding to issues instead of being proactive and moving forward effectively. Issues with staff morale and motivation will arise. The business’s real purpose will be obscured, vacillating will occur, and there will be a clear misalignment in expectations and outcomes.
For core values to work and positively impact an organisation, it’s really important that you assess what you say your values are and what you actually do and practice. Core values require a marriage of both belief and action. It’s not just about simply saying you believe in respect or family. Core values must actually show up in the choices that you make. That’s the key to their success.
Sharon Harris is Chief Marketing Officer of Jellyfish, working closely with global brands and their millions of customers worldwide to create their perfect digital partnerships. Over the last 10 years, she has operated as an executive in Microsoft, AOL, T-Mobile, and Deloitte, helping brands develop relationships and embrace digital transformation.