As it turns out, core values are wildly useful! If chosen properly.
I've always wanted core values at Foojee. I understand the value of them, and over the years I've probably read 138 articles about them, and listened to who knows how many podcast episodes from all of the greats. (I'm talking over a decade of attempts at brainstorming and implementing them!) But they always felt empty, no matter how pragmatic we wanted them to be. However, with the help of the EOS framework, we learned that core values aren't mearly poster statements to try and inject, they are the bedrock of our operations.
It wasn't until we created practical use cases for core values that we were able to easily establish ours, and use them frequently in our daily decision making. If chosen properly, the right core values will do three things for your team.
3 ways core values impact your operations
- Core values help evaluate new hire candidates. Yes, we actually read them aloud when comparing applicants, before we make our final decision.
- Core values remind your team (and you) of behavior that is celebrated. Key word is celebrate! Many times your team will follow the values without thinking about them, so acknowledge them each time you notice one being used and celebrate! Celebrated behavior becomes repeated behavior.
- Core values become the benchmark for each team member's performance evaluation. And yes, we say aloud each core value every time. If they aren't meeting expectations, it must be communicated. Life happens, and it's important to allow ebbs and flows of performance. But if there is a trend of underperformance, that team member must go. I can vouch for this. Recently, a team member's performance was falling short in two of our six core values. While it was difficult, we actually felt 100% confidence in letting him go. Without established core values, the sub-par performance could have lingered and hurt the team (and our customers) even longer.
How you choose core values is really up to you. Here's how we did it.
I found it helpful to brainstorm on my own and sit with them for a week or so. I had one sentence describing each. I also asked my COO/Integrator to do the same. You're welcome to add more people, I suppose, but early on I liked the secluded nature of the process. Core values are delicate at first, and you want to establish them with people who's work ethic and values you trust. By the way, core values absolutely change and get refined. Please don't put your first set of core values on a granite plaque for everyone on your team. We're 2 years into creating ours, and we still refine them on occasion. (And even your imperfect versions are still useful on day 1!)
Our COO and I met with 6-8 values each. And we spent about two hours total by giving each person the floor to share their reasoning behind each one. Hear each other out, let the values breathe. As we progressed we quickly saw similar values and were able to merge many of them. It wasn't until the final 2 or so that we had to let each other keep their favorites. Remember, he or she is your COO for a reason.
Next time, I'll share our core values, and some tips on how to share them with your team. If you're like me, I want to get to the implementation right away. But take a moment to brainstorm 6-8 values that have revealed themselves over the years in your best team members and leaders, in past or present jobs. I'm happy to be a sounding board if you want to send me what you've got.