Core Values, Mom, and Apple Pie

Sometimes when I ask leadership teams to define their core values, they’ll say something like. “Oh, that’s a waste of time. I’ts just Mom and Apple Pie stuff; everyone knows what’s important here.” Later, when they’re being sued for unethical business practices (Wells Fargo, anyone?), they tend to see things differently.

All decisions begin with values and priorities, so why not make it crystal clear what yours are in your organization? If everything is most important, then nothing is most important.

If you want to create a high-performance business culture and sustain it through rapid growth, then clear, enforced core values are essential. They need to be part of your performance management system. Not only should performance be defined in financial goals, but also in terms of the values that drive and insure this sustained financial success over time.

For example, if your business culture is “Make a buck any way you can,” then you’ll lose your A Players and your customers over time. Who wants to be involved with a business that doesn’t care about the people who work there or it’s customers?

Below is an example of a values clarification exercise for individuals. Take a moment and rank the items in the list from 1-13 depending on their priority in your life–then look at the rankings and decide if you’re the kind of leader that you’d want to follow.

____Affiliation: to obtain and share companionship and affection
____Commitment: to dedicate myself to my responsibilities
____Expertise: to develop a level of technical expertise
____Family: to devote time to family activities
____Independence: to have freedom of thought and action
____Leadership: to become influential
____Personal Development: to optimize personal development
____Pleasure: to enjoy life—to be happy and content
____Power: to have control of others
____Prestige: to acquire recognition for one’s status
____Security: to have a secure and stable position
____Service: to contribute to the happiness of others
____Wealth: to earn a great deal of money

High-Performance Habits

  1. Define and clarify the core values that will create and sustain financial success in your organization.
  2. Insure that these values are enforced throughout your business by making them an integral part of your performance management system.
  3. Show the door to folks who don’t practice your core values (“Terrorists”); they will destroy your financial success from the inside out.
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