Giving LIFE to Core Values

Living by a set of core values is the most critical foundation for running a great business and living a great life. The first section of the EOS® Vision/Traction Organizer® (V/TO) is “core values.” But to have any meaning, you must live your core values. You can’t just have words on a page, vinyl letters on a wall, or recited chants at company meetings. Giving LIFE to core values makes them real. 

Crystallize your vision and align your team

The Purpose of Core Values

Core values outline the fundamental pillars of culture. They must “guide when there is no guide” and “instruct when there is no manual.” 

Yes, the written words matter. They must effectively convey an organization’s (or individual’s) core beliefs and convictions. But they only come alive when someone lives them. We can do this by telling stories and giving examples of core values in motion. We must find evidence of the values being lived and then celebrate that! 

Going Above and Beyond

Years ago, I sat on the leadership team of a vibrant company that provided services for seniors, including in-home nursing care. The company had the core value “above and beyond,” with several sub-bullets describing it. One of those sub-bullets stated: We go above and beyond to care for our patients.

One very cold day in Minneapolis, a power failure left several homes in an area of the city without heat. Our team called all our clients in that area to check on them. Most were fine, but one older woman – I’ll call her Charlotte – wasn’t. She didn’t have anyone nearby to help and no backup source of power or heat.

A nurse from the team went to Charlotte’s home with some needed supplies. Then she checked on her the rest of the day. When the power came on, her heat still hadn’t been restored. At 9 p.m., the nurse left her home and went to Charlotte’s. After making several phone calls, the nurse learned a technician would need to come into the home to restore Charlotte’s heat, which made Charlotte nervous.

The nurse stayed with Charlotte until after midnight to ensure the tech visit went as planned and that the furnace worked. THAT became a real-life legend of the core value “above and beyond.” Not every employee would encounter a similar scenario. But having that story in a repository of core values made the core value truly come alive.

Figure It Out

I recently met with the founder of a company Running on EOS™, who has the core value of “figure it out.” Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Just be resourceful in problem-solving until you find a solution on your own.

The founder’s team worked hard to describe in words what “figure it out” meant as a core value.
Nothing really stuck until the leaders shared recent and relevant examples. They celebrated employees who took risks, spent company money to address challenges, and proactively attacked problems without waiting for direction… or permission.

Now the leadership team works to praise “figure-it-out behavior” even when that behavior doesn’t produce a visible victory. That’s because the behaviors coming from living the core values mean much more than the single outcomes.
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Do you have a repository of stories and examples that illustrate in real-life ways how your company lives its core values?

Along with your EOS® core values speech, you might consider collecting real-life stories and examples to give those values life. Sharing these stories can powerfully shape decision-making, behaviors, and culture.

Some experts say that you can’t create or build culture. Rather, they say that culture evolves organically and independently. Then, following this logic, if a great culture were to blossom organically, you couldn’t predict how long this happy accident might last.

I think about it differently! Leaders can intentionally build culture by telling stories and showing real-life examples of their core values. Praising the protagonists and celebrating their behaviors as the standard helps codify and strengthen company culture.

I often recommend that my clients set a Rock to build or expand their collection of core values stories. Try it out in your company… I’m willing to bet it will give life to your core values.


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