How to Make Your Core Values Part of the Fabric of Your Culture

Once your Leadership Team discovers your company’s Core Values, it’s time to start using them to lay the foundation of your organization’s culture.  To do that, you must have a compelling Core Values Speech.

If your Core Values are the bricks that form the foundation, the Core Values Speech is the mortar.  Without an effective message that communicates them over and over again, the Core Values are just a collection of aspirational ideas with nothing to solidify and hold them together.

Your Core Values represent the regular behaviors and character of your best people; those who exemplify the culture you want to build.  To drive this home, we as leaders have to do what good parents do to reinforce the kind of behavior they want from their children:

  • Have a simple set of rules,
  • Repeat ourselves often, and
  • “Walk the talk.”

So, the Core Values Speech is the primary vehicle you use to repeat your simple set of rules so often that everyone knows the values and the stories around them.

Using the speech to build your culture

Step 1: Craft a speech that paints a picture of how you want people to live in your organization.

Wordsmith your Core Values to state them in the simplest, most powerful language possible.  Imagine (or ask!) how your best employees would articulate the behaviors and attitudes that are important to them, and choose words and phrases that resonate accordingly.  Then summarize the Core Values in a one-page handout that can be used as an outline or speaker’s notes and can be given to give to every employee and hiring candidate.

As you write the full speech, remember the old speech class mantra, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.”  Craft the speech in three sections:

Start with an introduction that summarizes your Core Values.

Go in-depth with a detailed description of each Core Value and how you want your people to live them out.  Illustrate each value with some combination of the history behind it, a real-life example, an analogy, or even and anti-value to clearly spell out what the value means.

Conclude by repeating your summary.

Step 2: Practice and deliver the speech.

The Visionary or Integrator will likely deliver the Core Values Speech during your EOS Rollout.  But each member of the Senior Leadership Team will must know it, too.  You should rehearse the entire speech on your own – you’ll be delivering it on many occasions to your direct reports.

As you practice, imagine the best communicators you can recall in your own life and emulate their cadence, the way they make eye contact with their audience, the way they simplify their messages.  I often recommend that people view YouTube messages of great Presidential orators, like FDR, JFK and Ronald Regan.

Step 3: Repeat the speech… forever!

It’s a fact of human nature that people don’t begin to catch on to a message until they’ve heard it several times.  We often say that people must hear things seven times, seven ways before they truly hear it for the first time.

To thoroughly drive your Core Values into your organization, you must talk about them at every opportunity.  Repeat parts of the speech in every State of the Company Address as you review (again!) the V/TO, EOS Model, Accountability Chart, and other key tools.  Become skilled at delivering the speech and give it to your team in departmental meetings several times a year.

Visual reminders really help to bring the message home.  Choose quotes from the speech to frame or put on posters as part of a “Vision Wall” in a public area where people see it daily.

How to tell if you’re communicating enough

How will you know your Core Values have taken hold?  You will know when someone can call or visit your business and no matter which of your people they encounter, that employee can recite the Core Values and explain what they mean and how they are lived in your organization.

Even then, you’re just getting started!  New people arrive and old ones forget.  Paraphrasing Patrick Lencioni in his book, The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, you must try to “overcommunicate organizational clarity.”

Your Core Values (and the rest of your vision) cannot be repeated often enough. You must communicate them constantly to keep them evergreen and fully integrated into the fabric of your culture.

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