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Do you know your company’s core values?

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

During the Revolutionary War, the American colonists fought against a larger, better-equipped and better-trained British military force. Why did they emerge victorious?

Among other reasons, the colonists were a group of individuals who were motivated and unified by a shared cause, while the British were fighting a war in which they had no personal stake.

“Just as those early American soldiers were spurred on by a desire for liberty and a love of their fledgling country, values-driven companies will push harder and farther than their counterparts that lack purpose,” says Dennis Haley, CEO of Academy Leadership and author of The Core Values Compass: Moving from Cynicism to a Core Values Culture.

“People crave and thrive on work that’s meaningful. That’s a much more powerful motivator than money.”

Are you in touch with your company’s core values? Google’s core values, for example, can be found on its web site. Zappos has a list of 10 core values that begins with “Deliver WOW through service.”

And what about your team? Have you sat down as a group to talk about what your core values mean? If not, suggest to your boss that it might be time.

Here’s the potential payoff for you and your boss:

• Everyone will have a clearer understanding of where your focus should be. Employees frequently don’t do what they’re “supposed” to do, because they don’t know what that is. No one has ever made it clear that it’s more important to, say, meet a longtime customer’s request than to adhere to a strict budget.

“Values make it clear exactly when the ball was dropped,” Haley says. “It’s easier to hold people accountable when there’s a set of value-driven rules to hold them accountable.  Plus, for a variety of reasons, people in these kinds of organizations tend to hold themselves accountable.”

• It’s easier to make decisions. Everything comes down to: “This either supports our values or it doesn’t.” Establishing a set of core values cuts down on excuses and those “Yes, but ...” rationalizations.

• It aligns a team’s work. When a team’s only governing stricture is “This project needs to be done by next Tuesday,” there’s a lot of leeway as to the “how.”

In such an environment, the self-centered, the power-hungry, the divas and the bullies all thrive. You know who these people are: They get the job done, but their methods are divisive and their attitudes are negative.

“When companies adopt core values, everyone has to agree on what they mean and how they’ll look in action,” Haley says. “Essentially, core values facilitate a one-for-all mentality instead of a one-versus-all mentality, because hidden agendas and petty power plays can’t thrive.”

• People who don’t “fit” are immediately weeded out. Dissenters who refuse to adjust their behaviors must go, because their cynicism and uncooperativeness undermine the purpose and effectiveness of the organization as a whole.

“The good news is, it usually doesn’t take long for these values-saboteurs to make themselves obvious,” Haley says.

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