Core Values: the Answer to a "Who" Question.

Every organization is committed to getting the “right people on the bus”. It’s the first chapter in Business for Dummies. But how do we know we have the right people on the bus? Put them there and see? Ask them? Try different bus stops in the morning? No, no and no.

In absence of a clear ‘bus’ marker, companies change the subject. They look instead at who should be in what seat; in other words, they look at skills. This is bum-backwards and a real problem in building a dynamic team.

Sure, organizations need people that are good with this, knowledgeable in that, degreed to do X, experienced in handling Y and so on. We hire, retain and review based largely on skills and execution. But getting the right people on the bus (in the company) isn’t about those things. Those are givens. They can be found, bought or developed. They do NOT put the right people on the bus. They just move them to the right seat.

The only way to put the right people on the bus is to use Core Values as your bus monitor.

Ask any manager about their company’s Core Values and you’re apt to get a list of things they’d like to be known for or hope they represent. They view their Core Values from the eye of the public, from the view of their prospects and customers. This is wrong.

Your Core Values are an answer to a WHO question. Who are weWhat do we expect of one another? They aren’t characteristics to begin your next marketing campaign or to impress the PR world. CV’s are live, guttural traits of real people in competitive, resource-challenged environments. They are NOT flowery aspirations of who you would like to say you are or who you want your audience to think you are. This isn’t hair style or fashion design. This is DNA, very much real, very specific and identifiable only with examination.

The best way to identify your Core Values (notice I didn’t say “choose”) is to name one or two people in your company that you admire. Now write down the values they possess that you find most appealing, the ones you identify with them personally. Then have your top leaders do the same thing for someone in the organization that they admire. Carry them all to one master list and begin to edit.

The list will be fairly lengthy, but you’ll spot repeats and certain characteristics that don’t apply to your business. Cross those off. Eventually you’ll come down to the top three to seven that you can say: “Man, if everyone in our organization was like that, we would KILL IT!

The key is to then teach these to your staff, over and over again. Use examples, history, anti-value and analogies to explain each one. Then make sure you conduct each employee review, not on productivity or even quality of work, but on these Core Values. Do it quarterly. Use a simple +, +/-, – system and don’t accept anyone who is a – (negative) and only allow one +/- (with a corrective action plan.).

If you do this right, you’ll end up with the right people on the bus, and the ones that don’t belong will actually get off at the next stop. It also makes hiring people a far more accurate mission within your organization.

Getting the right people on the bus is your brand, it’s your culture and it starts at the corner of your next Core Value.

To learn more about Core Values we suggest reading Traction by Gino Wickman.


The answer to our “who” question:

Core Values Infographic

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