AJC Playbook: How to Define a Company’s Core Values?

What does your organization truly care about?

Your organization’s Core Values, those things that you really and truly care about, should be so foundational that you are willing to hire, coach, develop, and ultimately fire people based on how well they live them out. These values should speak to your “Why” – to borrow from Simon Sinek. On his website, Sinek states that “The WHY is the purpose, cause or belief that drives every one of us.”

Different business experts will offer various ways to come up with these values.  They could be determined by the owner, leader, or Board of a business. They could be created in a joint session with the Leadership Team*. They could be idealistic or more practical. While there are many ways to determine values, the most practical is that the people whose decisions will stick – especially around hire / fire – should be the ones with the final say as to whether the values articulated are the foundational ones that the whole company will live by. And these leaders need to live by the values, both so the entire company knows what to expect, and so they can believe in and count on their leaders to live up to their word.

*Our definition of Leadership Team is the group of people who make strategic decisions and are ultimately responsible for the performance of the business.

Working Genius Note – Foundational Values

When you determine the Values, it may be helpful to ensure that the Working Genius of “Wonder” is represented. This Genius will naturally consider the bigger picture and ask questions relevant to how the organization fits within that on a macro level, which typically can cut through a lot of tactical concerns to summarize themes or important concepts. However, ensure that the team doesn’t stop with Wonder, as the values do need to be articulated concisely and documented – ideally with descriptions for the words or phrases used in ways that will resonate with the organization. If you do not have someone with Wonder on the team defining values, ask a trusted advisor with that genius to review your values before finalizing them to ensure that you have captured values that will capture the essence of your organization.

Read the next article in our AJC Playbook Series: Do you have the Right People in the Right Seats (at least mostly)?

Link back to AJC Playbook: Sharing our Methodology (and Running Table of Contents)