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Cheri Dudek-Kuhn | A company’s core values matter

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There is much hype today about organizational culture (well… today, yesterday and tomorrow). We see mission and vision statements displayed proudly in lobbies and conference rooms. But how many people, including those in management, really know the core values of their organization? And moreover, how many use these values to make decisions affecting their organization?

A recent survey from Eagle Hill Consulting showed that just over half (53 percent) of employees know their company’s core values. And a recent Gallup poll has just 23 percent of U.S. employees who strongly agree that they can apply their organization’s value to their work every day, and only 27 percent strongly agree that they “believe in” their organization’s values.

Why does all this matter? People perform better when they identify with company values and goals. In fact, 9 out of 10 of those surveyed who know their organization’s core values do use them to drive decisions and behavior at work. I witness this daily — my organization has very defined organizational values and our team members use them to carry out work and make decisions on a regular basis.

This is not always the case though. A common complaint among employees in many organizations is that the culture of the organization does not reflect what the core values state. Often this is because the leadership team is not walking the talk. When I work with clients, I compare good leadership to good parenting. Do as I say and not as I do is about as effective in the office as it is at home. It is not enough to want to have a great culture in your company. It takes thoughtful leadership and work. Here are some steps to move your company toward value-driven work:

  • First you need to discover your core values (they already exist, you are not creating them).
  • Second, you need to communicate them. We have them posted in our conference room. Every team member knows them and shares anecdotes of those values in action at our quarterly State of the Company meetings.
  • Next, it is important to build on them. Incorporate them into all aspects of your HR processes: hiring, firing, reviewing, rewarding and recognizing employees. Review them with your team at least quarterly. Comment openly when you see your core values in action. This is also true for the opposite. When you see someone missing the mark, address it quickly and succinctly and then make an action plan to address the issue  and follow through!
  • Finally, and most important, as leaders you MUST walk the talk and lead by example. Nothing will undermine your efforts more quickly than a leader or leadership team that does not exemplify a company’s core values.

None of this is complicated, but it is hard to be consistent and disciplined. Challenge yourself to truly exemplify your company values — you can even have others hold you accountable to help you stay on path. When your team sees your commitment to the organizational values, they will work harder together and your organization will become a place people want to be. Ultimately, this increases productivity and your bottom line. We all know that leadership starts at the top but it is your hard work and consistent demonstration of Core Values that will make a difference in your organization — yielding tangible results. 


Cheri Dudek-Kuhn is a leadership enthusiast and CEO at Orchard Corset. Read her leadership blogs at cheridudek.com//category/latest-news/.