Your organization’s core purpose and values dictate every action that your company will take from its inception onwards. This is why experts recommend that leaders define their company’s core purpose and values with careful consideration, choosing ideals that their company can stay aligned with regardless of changes in their business priorities and strategies.
Staying Aligned with Your Company’s Purpose and Values
Renowned business authors Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras demonstrate the significance of core purpose and values in their iconic Harvard Business Review article “Building Your Company’s Vision.”
They explain that “core values are an organization’s essential and enduring tenets–the values it would hold even if they became a competitive disadvantage; core purpose is the organization’s fundamental reason for being.”
The values you inscribe are immensely important to how your company operates, what your employees can expect from senior leadership, and what goals and priorities you choose to focus on to create consistent revenue and scale up.
One of the first steps to choosing values that will stick is to identify those that resonate with your company and have real-life examples to back them up. Founder of The Table Group and business author Patrick Lencioni explains that hollow values decrease your company’s employee engagement and external credibility, citing Enron’s corporate values from their 2000 report as an example of what-not-to-do.
In order for your team members to feel that your company’s corporate culture represents your values, you need core values with a clear meaning and purpose your employees can relate to, or as Forbes contributor Chris Cancialosi says, “values with teeth.”
Once you’ve identified your core values, one of the most difficult things can be to stick with them. With multiple people involved, it can be especially challenging to create a cohesive set of values that your whole team appreciates. Yet, staying aligned with your company’s core purpose and values can help companies excel quickly. Successful companies have a strong purpose and values that remain fixed even as their business strategies and tactics shift to adapt to changes in the industry or new levels of growth.
Scaling Up author Harnish identifies several tactics to keep your core values “alive” even as your company scales up to accommodate changes in your field or revenue levels. Among them, he includes “storytelling” in which all executives should take the time to provide stories from the company in the past 3-12 months that represent your core values.
Clear examples help leaders see which values are most essential to the company, including which should be emphasized or might need reinforcement.
Other ways to keep your team aligned to your core values and overall purpose involve your team members themselves to create values that they actually like. Harnish suggests asking questions during the hiring process to see how well potential employees match up to each of your core values.
Once hired, he recommends orienting team members to the company’s ethics and goals and using their performance in relation to the stated values as a determinant of rewards and recognition.
Leadership can work to keep the core values alive by restating them often, especially during status report meetings or as they relate to situations that arise. Many companies keep their core purpose somewhere visible so that all employees can access it. Others send newsletters throughout the year going into the values in more detail and highlighting their significance for the company moving forward.
The most important things leaders can do to keep their core values present in their corporate culture is to uphold these ideals themselves. If employees see their executives straying from the company’s purpose, then your values lose their integrity.
A common misconception is that the core purpose and values need to change to meet the company’s growing needs and goals. If this seems the case for your company, then the core purpose you initially identified may have been too specific or limiting. While your purpose might need small changes over time, and your business objectives will shift to meet new needs, the underlying ideals you hold should be consistent throughout your company’s growth.
For example, tech company Amazon’s mission statement is: “We seek to be Earth’s most customer-centric company for four primary customer sets: consumers, sellers, enterprises, and content creators.”
Even with its immense growth over the years, its core purpose still drives its daily activities and key priorities, namely, a focus on people rather than profit.
Keeping your team aligned to your organization’s values doesn’t need to be difficult. But if the values your once chose no longer make sense, it may be time to reconsider the direction your company is going and how you can best adapt to meet your needs.