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Values: At the Core of Leadership

Whether you’re leading a household of two, a small company of ten, or a 20 million dollar corporation, core values and personal beliefs are the foundation of effective leadership.

“Company Culture” is a popular buzz term. We all know it isn’t enough to just hang some inspirational posters on the walls or add a mission statement to our company’s website. A true leader creates a culture based on positive feelings, emotions, beliefs, and behaviors – and then lives by them. Every. Single. Day.

A leader’s job isn’t simply to ensure all orders are completed that day (or the laundry is done and there’s food on the table). What really makes any organization successful is the emotional climate, the tone, the shared belief systems and the core values that define the development of a brand and consistently successful business strategies. All too often, we get so busy with seemingly more important, day-to-day tasks, that culture-building falls to the bottom of the to-do list. The truth is that if you don’t intentionally create your culture by design, it will be created by default.

Where do you start?

The first step is to identify the Core Values that are important to you and your employees. In one of my companies, we developed ours as a group early on, through an exercise where all employees contributed. With so many employees invested in the result, it was easy to implement the principles into everyday use. The majority of them were already living these same values in their personal lives. By identifying, defining and naming them, we created a blueprint for future employees. We set the standards by which today we recruit new employees, govern performance and define our most valuable customers.

Be sure to communicate your expectations to the whole team, and set the boundaries for when leaders aren’t around. This applies to personal brands, the core values of your corporation, and even family values.

It helps to list and commit them to memory. Keep in mind that simple is better. For example, one of our Core Values is “Go Above and Beyond.” This means that we always strive to do more than is expected, help others when we can, and raise the bar for all tasks completed to the highest of standards. It’s pretty self-explanatory.

Keeping Core Values simple makes them easy to remember and to put into action—daily! Getting creative in reminding people to live them doesn’t have to be difficult. We recently held our annual company picnic and had a drawing for a highly sought prize. To be entered into the drawing, you had to be nominated by a co-worker who identified which Core Value their nominee exemplified and how. Regular activities that highlight our Core Values ensure they are acted upon and rewarded.

Once a foundation of Core Values is laid, the challenging part is to ingrain them in everyday practices. As a busy leader, cultivating a positive and productive culture may not seem urgent, but it is always critical!

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