What are Core Values?

Core values are statements describing a clear and compelling direction for motivating and inspiring people around common beliefs. Individuals and organizations can each have core values. In the organizations, the core values provide a common basis for problem-solving and dispute resolution. This is an integral part of building the organizational or corporate culture, especially if one of the goals of the organization is for its constituents to collectively value quality.

Even if there are no written statements of values, it is nonetheless possible for an organization to understand and adhere to a value system. For example, the U.S. constitution formally outlines many values including liberty, equality, individual rights, freedom of speech, and equal opportunities for justice. However, since its inception the country has operated on a much richer foundation of values, including the appreciation of and commitment to hard work, personal responsibility, integrity, self-reliance and democracy. Through constant reiteration of these values, and a punishment/reward system that encourages actions that embody the values, the ideals are effectively promoted. For example, someone who wants to open their own business and is willing to put in the time, responsibility, and hard work can benefit by reaping both financial rewards and personal benefits (e.g. flexible work week, more time to spend with family).

According to Collins (2006), “we spend too much time drafting and redrafting statements of mission, vision, values and purpose, and too little time aligning with the values and visions in place.” He says that an organization should be a) identifying where the intended core values and the existing environment are misaligned, and b) taking action to create new alignments. To do this effectively, the values must be reinforced at all levels of the organization. For example, if a core value is to encourage employee creativity and problem solving, a suggestion box will be less effective without reinforcements, e.g. rewards and recognition for the best, most creative ideas.

Collins, J. (2006). Aligning with vision and values: correct misalignment. Leadership Excellence.

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