Organizational core values do more than just promote ethical business practices. The system of core values that your organization owns will shape the culture of the enterprise, the decision-making criteria of your managers and the actions of your employees. The more strongly defined the organization’s core values, the more likely that this value system will serve as a code of conduct that promotes and guides strategically-aligned behaviors within managers and employees.
Why Core Values Are So Important
Organizational leaders need their employees to act as their proxy, serving as delegates of the business that promote a shared set of common objectives – possessing the same organizational DNA. Simply put, you need decisions to be made and actions to be taken that protect your organization and portray it well. Whether you are a small business owner or the CEO of a Fortune-500 company, it is not possible, nor is there ever enough time available, to weigh in on all decisions made during the course of a business day.
Instead, lower-level managers and employees constantly step in to make choices, decisions and commitments for the organization. In the absence of a strong culture and organizational core value system to guide them, they may not decide things or act on our behalf the way we would prefer. Leaders cannot be omnipresent to correct behaviors or decisions that are out of alignment with the core values, nor can leaders be clairvoyant and know when it happens.
Nevertheless, it is possible for leaders, even as mere mortals, to positively influence the behaviors, actions and decisions of their employees in their day to day job duties. They can do this by defining the core values of the organization – in essence laying out the “core value bumper pads” to help keep employees from going outside the boundaries. Forming such a framework mobilizes those below the executive suite to make the right choices that reflect well on the organization.
How this is accomplished starts at the top. That is, the moral conduct of an organization begins with the core values of the top executive. These must be represented by the top executive’s own behavior and formalized in a statement of core values that is shared amongst all in the organization. Management and the workforce must be on the same page when it comes to the core values. When this occurs, it is evidenced in the corporate culture and the general work ethic of the employees. Strong core values benefit the culture as a foundation to anchor it to leadership’s DNA.
A second part of the solution involves creating organizational structures that consistently reinforce the values of the organization, helping to institutionalize the shared values into the culture. This empowers informed employees with the latitude and proper judgement to make broader line-level decisions, again – anchored to the organization’s core values.
“Values-aligned” managers and employees benefit the entire organization by demonstrating predictable and favorable decision-making capabilities and behaviors that are reflective of the executive management mindset. When management provides the core values “compass” to help influence and guide behavior, those closest to the action in the organization can respond with appropriate decisions and actions.
Begin by defining the organization’s core values (those values held by the Founder or CEO provide an excellent starting point). Consistently promote the core values to help institutionalize them into the culture, display support for them them through action and recognition.
Lastly, ensure that the organization’s strategy and operational execution are in alignment with this value system at all times.