Core Values: An essential part of core ideology or not?


The most misunderstood, misguided and misrepresented part of an organization’s core ideology is often the core values. These values, which often give lip service to such things as: “We respect each other as equals,” “We seek diversity and diverse points of view,” etc. rarely manifest themselves within the organization they are written for. Why? For one, exactly because they are “written for” an organization and not with the input of the employees but, equally important, it’s because the management team is not equipped with the tools, the coaching and the know-how to help all members of the organization live these values day in and day out.

Why do core values matter anyway? If they permeate an organization, core values can help with recruiting employees, retaining employees, attracting and retaining new customers and creating customer loyalty. It’s impossible to ignore the importance of these values. It must be said that every company HAS core values — they just may not be the ones the senior leadership team created!

There is no better example of a company living it’s core values than Starbucks.  For anyone, facilitator or leader, attempting to create a set of core values and infuse them into the organization, I recommend reading the little book called  How Starbucks Saved My Life, by Michael Gates Gill.  This book provides a rare glimpse into a company that is actually living it’s values. I was amazed (and I think you will be to!) at how successfully Starbucks has created a culture of respect for each other, listening, and attention to the customer by bringing their core values to life in each and every store.

So, how does a facilitator or company/organization leader help leadership teams live their core values?  Here’s a short list of tips I have learned along the way:

1) Gather input from the organization. Use an anonymous survey tool to find out where things are really at and how far away you are from the values you would like your organization to embody.

2) For each of the values, determine how committed the leadership team is to actually “living” that value day in and day out. Articulate what it means to “live” the value.  Set aside those values that not everyone is willing to commit to.

3) Articulate what the organization will look like when all the values are being actively “lived” by all in the organization. Create a vivid description using picture and words to communicate your vision to the organization

4) Create and implement a communications plan so that every single person within the organization knows how they should live each of the values and what that means for their everyday interactions with co-workers, leadership and customers.

5) Set up a consistent reward and staffing structure.  Reward ALL employees based on how effectively they convey the organization’s values. Hire only those people whose own values are congruent with the organizations.

This little book, How Starbucks Saved My Life, is a powerful depiction of the impact an organizations values can have on both the success of the overall entity and, even more importantly, the happiness of the employees who are out on the line serving customers.

Click on this link to see the core values of another successful company:  Zappos

Cindy Diamond

IGNiTE . . . fueling creativity and innovation


3 thoughts on “Core Values: An essential part of core ideology or not?

  1. I’m really interested in hearing from others who have read this book. I found it in the seat back pocket of an airplane and read it on a whim. I was surprised by how powerful this little book was . . . and how relevant it is ecomonically and culturally right now.

  2. Great post Cindy and thanks. How refreshing to see people with genuine solutions in tough times! Our work is quite similar and yet differs in interesting ways. We facilitate leaders and learners to use more brainpower – through wielding smart skills that replace hard and soft skills:-) I love your approaches and see that they will run past the debris of broken systems also!!!

    Great find, thanks to Michael Cardus

  3. Excellent – I like this!

    Too often “Core Values” is relegated to a perfunctionary half hour session on a strategy retreat.
    But here you suggest a whole intervention centered around the subject.

    Articulating and entrenching values may be a “Change” for an organisation. And I like the approach you suggest.
    As a thought for reflection, Jim Collins says values are ‘discovered’ rather than ‘created’.
    You can listen to him talk through these things at

    This work can be a tough sell to a client who may feel they need to get to more important stuff than values (which go in the ‘fluffy and warm’ box).

    I am going to get hold of the book you suggest.

    By the way, in articulating what it means to “live” the values as you suggest, I like to add an exercise where participants list positive and negative indicators for each value:
    Positive: What are the behaviours we will see when the value is being “lived out”.
    Negative: What behaviours will we see when the value is being contravened.

    Thanks for a great post


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