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Your Values Are Your Commandments

An organization that exists without knowing and practicing its values is like a ship sailing around the world without a compass.

Lost and dangerous.

I’m always surprised by how many companies fail to identify their values and articulate them well. This is true for startups who just want to jump straight into building the product or service they’re launching, and for established organizations who struggle to get people on the same page.

There comes a point in every company when core values and beliefs need to be discovered and made very clear, which in my opinion is early on since they first stem from the personal values of the person or people who founded the company.

[Tweet “An organization that exists without knowing it’s values is like a ship sailing without a compass.”]

When properly executed at the leadership level, core values are key to establishing the foundation that will drive your culture and build your brand as it grows. When you’re fiercely loyal to your values and use them to steer your company’s attitudes, choices, and actions — both when things are sailing smoothly and when the pressure is on — you create strength, unity and trust.

[Tweet “Values are so much more than verbs – they are your commandments.”] Values are so much more than verbs – they’re commandments. They are the code of conduct by which you work. The standard by which you go about your business. They set the bar for how people should act and treat others. They act as a benchmark to measure behavior and performance.

Identifying your core values may require some soul searching. Too often our self-images are hopelessly idealistic. We want to be things we might not be. You can’t simply cherry pick your values out of thin air (we see this more often than we’d like to admit). They must be real, legitimate and genuine. They must represent what is sacred, unwavering, passionately protected, and deeply held. They must reflect what’s already inside you. For example, a company might say they value independence, but then reward conformity. Or maybe teamwork is a recognized value, but people don’t feel like the culture is very team-oriented. Don’t be that company.

So, first thing’s first — ensure your core values are actually true. There is no greater problem than being authentically inauthentic. Then, after defining your values, make sure you detail the behaviors associated with each one. Even better, list examples and/or create scenarios to paint a clear picture of how to act on the values. Check into them all the time, talk about them any chance you get, remind yourself of them in every situation, and most importantly, stand up for them when you’re asked to compromise.

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