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Enhance your company’s value by revisiting your core values

The principles that hold a company together should be active — not antiques.

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Most companies have established core values — the fundamental beliefs and guiding principles that dictate behavior and decision-making within an organization. Many companies, however, tend to let their core values collect dust after the initial exercise is over. 

Your company’s core values should help drive major decisions in the organization, from hiring to operations and beyond. Core values are the guiding light by which you should measure all decisions. And they are particularly important for family businesses, where the family values (necessarily) coincide with the company values. If your organization doesn’t adhere to, or pay attention to your core values, it’s probably time to revisit them. 

When to revisit core values

You can revisit your core values at any time. But there are some times in your business’s life that can serve as a reminder to do it: transitions, growth periods and changes in organization structure. 

In most of these examples, new people are joining the company or moving into new roles. Especially in a family business, this is a crucial time to establish or reestablish the guideposts that are your core values. 

During periods of transition — whether that’s a succession plan or a shift in operations — it’s good to do a gut check to see if your existing core values match with the new way forward you have created. In some cases, you’ll want to adjust the values to fit the new reality. In other cases, like when new people or leaders are joining the business, it makes sense to review and reaffirm your existing core values, asking yourselves questions like “does this person fit? Do they get what makes us tick?” People are your greatest asset, and culture is the great accelerator of human capital. Make sure the people who will join (or lead) your company are a fit with your core values, and thus your culture. 

How to revisit core values

When revisiting core values, it’s essential for everyone involved, from leadership to employees, to be honest with themselves and each other. For leadership, ask yourselves if you are living up to your core values. Are you truly ‘walking the walk?’ If not, why? This doesn’t always mean that you are failing to adhere to your core values and it’s your fault. Some of your core values might just not be as essential as you imagined when you first established them. 

When it comes to employees, getting honest feedback can be tough. But if you create an environment where they feel empowered to speak up, your company will be better off in the long run. 

As a family business consultant, I have helped dozens of closely held companies with their core values, and getting feedback from both leadership and employees is an important part of the process. The following are “values check” questions I have found to be useful: 

  • What is important at our company and what is unique about working there?
  • What is our company not? What does our competition do that we would never do?
  • What is our favorite characteristic of the company?
  • What is the one thing you would most like to change about this company?
  • What kinds of people fail in the company?
  • Who is a hero around here? Why?
  • Are there examples of leaders or employees NOT living up to our core values?

Try to match the answers against your company's core values. Do they honestly reflect your company culture? This exercise can help you learn what’s working, what’s not — and why. 

The importance of cctionable core values and great leadership

If your company is not living up to its core values, it may be because they are not actionable. Can you easily apply one or more of your core values to a business or personnel decision? Do they offer a clear path of how you want people to act? The answer to all these questions should be yes. 

If your core values are actionable, but your company isn’t living up to them, it’s a people problem. And the first person to look at is the one in the mirror. Leaders lead by example. Are you setting the right tone through your actions? Being a self-reflective leader is important. As a leader, your demonstration of the core values will ultimately decide whether they will be followed by the team. Communicate what you want clearly and honestly — and always walk the walk. 

At its center, values-based leadership is defined as leading with purpose and with a clear sense of what matters most to you as a leader. It's about being true to your beliefs and living them in your everyday life, both personally and professionally.



Denise Federer

Denise Federer is a contributing columnist to the Business Observer. She is the founder and principal of Federer Performance Management Group with more than 30 years of experience working with key executives, business leaders and Fortune 500 companies as a behavioral psychologist, consultant, coach and trainer. Contact her at [email protected].

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