If there’s one document that supports your vision and sets the tone for your company culture, it’s your core values. And with most companies shifting to an entirely or semi-remote working arrangement, having an actionable set of values has become crucial now more than ever.
By ensuring that you have clear core values, you help build a productive culture that would hold up to varying situations, especially under uncertain circumstances.
If you’re in the process of drafting your core values, here are common mistakes you must avoid at all costs.
Too Young of a Company
Do you remember a time in your life when you were too young to know who you are? Chances are, who you are today is different from who you were when you were a teen. As humans, our unique experiences, knowledge, and interactions push us to learn more about ourselves. Moreover, they shape our perception as to the kind of person we aspire to be.
Similarly, there’s such a phase in a venture’s life when it’s too young to know its real identity. Of course, you’d want to capture the values that define your business. But it’s also possible that you haven’t got much experience yet to know what’s in your core.
How to correct: Unfortunately, you can’t fast-forward time. Experience and self-discovery is a life-long process. The good news is, your core values don’t have to be stagnant. In fact, you can update it now and then if you feel like it’s not relevant anymore.
Founders Don’t Agree
Let’s say the business has been handed down to you, and you were tasked to draft its core values. There will always be a chance that a founder would disagree with your business decisions, including the draft of your core values. After all, different people have different perspectives.
Drafting your core values and not getting the founders on board is surely a scenario no one wants to be in. If you find yourself in this sticky situation, it’s crucial to examine where the misalignment came from. Have founders’ perspectives grown outdated and irrelevant? Or are you the one who lost touch about what the venture is truly about?
How to correct: You need to pin down two things to get a clear perspective of your core values. The first one is your history and how you get to where you are right now. The second one is where you want to be in the next few years. Sit down with all the stakeholders and discuss these two things. By knowing where you came from and having a clear vision of your goals, you’ll have a better grasp of the venture you want to be at present.
Is there such a thing as a set of core values with no authenticity? Of course. This is usually the case when ventures merely create a set of core values just for the sake of doing so. Defining your core values requires introspection and a lot of reflection. Otherwise, it would just be a string of words with no real weight or value. In short, it would be inauthentic.
If you don’t consider your venture’s unique identity as you write your core values, you won’t come up with a set that you can genuinely apply to your everyday operations.
How to correct: Think long and hard about values that you can truly apply to your business. Your core values don’t have to be elaborate and complex. In fact, businessman and investor Marc Lore once said that a set of three values is ideal for any venture. According to Lore, you only need to pick “three forces that get to the root of who you are and what you stand for.”
No One Understands Them
Complicated core values run the risk of being misunderstood by team members. Or worse, employees might not even take the time to absorb them. After all, who needs another document to decipher when they have actual work tasks to attend to?
Moreover, many ventures fail to introduce the core values properly during hiring and onboarding. When this happens, new hires feel like the values aren’t that much important to the company. As a result, they exert no effort in understanding them, much less applying them.
How to correct: The first step to having livable core values is to make sure that they’re easily understandable by everyone in your team. In addition to that, you must also make sure to remind everyone of these values regularly. Rather than simply having the core values printed and framed in your office, try to promote them through various forms of communication, including town hall meetings, newsletters, or even emails.
Not a Priority
Many ventures don’t prioritize their core values with so much going on in a business’s everyday schedule. This, however, is a big mistake. For one, core values can assist ventures in decision-making. For instance, if one of your core values is compassion towards your customers, you’ll know that you’ll pull out all the stops to extend your assistance to them for anything related to your products and services.
How to correct: Prioritize your core values and compose them with a deliberate intention to apply them in your venture’s operations. Only when you make your core values a priority will you push yourself to come up with an honest list of core values. In the same way, only by giving your core values enough focus and importance will you be able to apply them in your day-to-day process.
It goes without saying that you should never look at writing your core values as a mere requirement. Those who do just that end up committing some or all of the mistakes mentioned above. And when you have an insincere set of core values, it becomes nothing but an accessory hanging on your wall.
That said, take the time to dig deep and capture the very heart of your venture. Only by doing so can you develop a set of core values that will serve as a guiding light to the business.