10 Simple rules for discovering & articulating your company core values

Core values are the principles and beliefs upon which you make business and life decisions. A common mistake is to confuse core values with goals. Goals are more about an outcome in the future whereas core values are behaviours and attitudes that govern who you are today — they define your character.

Think of your core values as the constitution for your company — a set of principles upon which you will create 100% your policies and govern the operations.

The 10 Rules:

  1. Answer the question “What pisses you off?” – the things that anger us are great clues to what we value.
  2. Answer the question “What do I believe in or what inspires me”. Think of the things you admire in yourself or others and define those qualities. Think of examples of behaviours and stories that illustrate.
  3. Just because you don’t do something consistently doesn’t mean it’s not core to you. Another great clue to a core value is if you feel a sense of guilt or discomfort when you don’t uphold that value. It’s why confession exists in the Catholic church.
  4. Core values are non-competitive which means it doesn’t matter one bit if another company has the exact same core value as you — even if it’s your biggest competitor. If it’s authentic and core to you, that’s all that matters.
  5. You can have as few as one core value but try to keep the total to under 5 or 6. If you have more than that, chances are that they are not all core.
  6. There is no such thing as a right or wrong core value — it is what it is. The only thing that matters is that it is authentic.
  7. The company leadership must FULLY embody and live the core values both personally and professionally otherwise nobody else will.
  8. Avoid corporate-speak and platitudes and keep it real. Say it the way you want to say it. For example, instead of default standard terms like integrity or honesty, try expressions like, “promises matter deeply” or “be real” and “give a damn” or “speak the truth”. Make them authentic.
  9. Ask if you’d be willing to fire someone for violating the core values — even if they were your top salesperson, most talented programmer, etc. If not, then it’s probably not a core value.
  10. It has been said that a value is not a core value unless you are willing to stand behind it with your reputation and your wallet. That means you’d be willing to give up opportunities that violate your core values – regardless of how lucrative it may be. Core values make it easier for you to do the right thing. They are non-negotiable.

A few examples of how our clients
brought their core values to life…

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