Core Values Can Hurt You

If you’re like most growth company executives, you know a lot about core values. You know that core values are discovered, not chosen. You know that core values need to be infused into everything you do, from recruiting and hiring to onboarding, ongoing employee feedback, company newsletters and even awards.

As a refresher, there are 3 tests for core values.

  1. Your core values are alive among your people today. Everyone in your company knows what the core values are and can tell stories about what others have done to live them.
  2. You would take a financial hit to uphold a core value. This one’s often harder to see because opportunities to demonstrate it don’t necessarily come up very often. Give this one some thought. How might it cost you money to uphold each of your values.
  3. Repeat core values violators are not allowed to stay in your company. Sometimes this is written as “Fire an offender.” Let’s look deeper at this one to find out how core values can hurt you.

At Assured Strategy, while we understand that sometimes terminating people is unavoidable, we believe it is most often not necessary. What do I mean by that? As human beings, we all make mistakes, we all have strengths and weaknesses. If you fire everyone who makes a mistake, you’ll be quickly left with no one in your company, including yourself. If, on the other hand, people own up to their mistakes and accept accountability, including cleaning up any messes, then that’s an indicator of a healthy culture.

For example, one of our Assured Strategy core values is “Do What You Say: Stay hungry, hold others accountable, and deliver results.” This doesn’t mean none of us ever misses a deadline. What it means is, to live the core value, we are accountable for missing that deadline, we re-commit to getting it done by a new date and we clear up any mess left with others as a result of that missed deadline.

Now we’re ready to come back to the main idea of this post, how core values can hurt you. If you allow someone to repeatedly violate your core values without holding them accountable, you are telling everyone, including that person, that you don’t care about your core values. If your team believes the core values are a lie, there’s really nothing you can do to get them to trust you, and without trusting their leader, there’s really no way for them to trust each other either.

So what does this have to do with not having to fire people? It means that you need to hold people accountable for their behavior. If someone is repeatedly violating a core value, you point out the behavior, repeat your behaviorally expectation and ask them if this is the right place for them. If the behavior continues, do it again. Point out the behavior, repeat your expectation and ask them if this is the right place for them to work. If you do this often enough and firmly enough, it is likely they will leave on their own. When you do this, you are building trust on your team as they see the people toxic to your culture leaving and that shows everyone that you really care about your core values.

Ted Sarvata

Ted Sarvata

Written by Ted Sarvata

Ted Sarvata has driven entrepreneurs to their maximum organizational impact through proven methodologies for over 25 years. From vision to strategy then execution, Sarvata is known for implementing accountability, strategic thinking, and tactical excellence in…

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