The business world is obsessed with making good decisions. Rightly so! We want to invest in assets that bring a healthy return. We aim to hire and retain the very best talent, attract the best clients, and navigate through the market in a way that’s good for both profit, people, and the planet.

But no plan survives first contact with reality. So all too often company’s fall off and get sidetracked instead of maneuvering with clear eyes and clear intent. Before you can make great decisions with highest possible degree of consistency, you need to know what constitutes a great decision in the first place. And that means deeply understanding the far-too-often overlooked secret weapon of Core Values.

Core Values – what are they and why should you care?

A lot’s been written about this subject. It’s a big deal, but it really feels like Core Values are what support the vision, shape the culture and reflect how the company behaves.

Core values are not business decisions – they’re what drives business decisions. They are the base-line values upon which you make all other choices, and with which you navigate challenges and opportunities. Hiring the best is a business decision. Integrity, Collaboration, Courage… those are values.

In some ways core values are the compass that an organization uses to navigate the environment it operates in. When a company has no values, it rarely lasts. Businesses which lack values typically also lack direction, and fall victim to any number of disasters – hiring the wrong people and putting them in the wrong roles; delivering products of poor quality products and subsequently being annihilated by bad reviews on line; failing due to terrible customer delivery and lousy service; disregarding customers and living in an echo chamber (i.e. General Motors), and even getting caught up in fraud, scope-creep and hosts of other entanglements.

Core Values help you navigate around potential disasters by serving as a “North Star” that you can use to remind yourself who you are as an organizing and what you stand for (or won’t stand for). They also engender trust, respect and contribute to creating the kind of work place people will actually seek out. If you’re constantly seeing people come and go, check your values.

  • Are they present?
  • Can you name them with absolute conviction?
  • Can ALL your staff name them with the same conviction as you can?
  • Do people live them through actions… or is it just talk…?

The value of having values adds up quickly when we consider that they most successful organizations are built on precisely that. So, how do you uncover your company’s values? And more importantly – how do you use them.

Think Deeply Now, then Execute

If you could put in a bit of hard work now that would make every decision you face in the future easier to make, would you do it? When asked whether or not you believe that knowing yourself is important, my guess is that most people reading this would correctly answer “yes”. But why does self-knowledge matter?

Understanding who you are and what you stand for empowers you to make good decisions that are tethered to your authentic self. Being clear about where you stand and WHAT you stand for puts you at a tremendous advantage by allowing you to navigate potentially conflicting situations, and avoid the pit-falls of bad decisions that can waste your time and money or tarnish your brand and reputation. Knowing your values lets you face tough choices from a place of strength and self-assurance.

By deeply considering and clearly defining the indelible, powerful, and immutable bedrock of what you stand for (core values), you can then filter all your actions and decisions through that lens. Since core values don’t change – they’re true today, tomorrow and in 100 years – by doing the work to define them now you can focus on execution instead of wasting time and sitting on the fence when it comes to business decisions that might otherwise be tough to make. Having this lens of clarity helps make faster decisions that align with what matters to you the most.

Do the work now. Then execute. It’s worth it.

Deciding on Your Core Values

  1. A good place to start is this – If you were hiring a manager or key staff member today, what are the top 3-5 characteristics that a candidate MUST have. Not skills or past experience, but things like integrity, attitude and so forth. Things that can’t be taught.
  2. Write down as many as you can. Then consider each one deeply. Do some of them over-lap? Good! That indicates a direction you should explore. For example “work ethic” and “integrity” are similar, so find a way to combine those two and dig into what it is that they have in common (i.e. maybe it’s a sense of ownership)
  3. Keep it short! Finalize your list to no more than 3-5 core values. Remember, these need to be easily understood and insanely usable – if you have too many no one in your organization will remember them, or they’ll lose interest.
  4. Write a short description for each, explaining how you as an organization live and breathe this value every day. Again, keep it short and sweet! It’s meant to be used by people, so avoid cheesy buzz words and ridiculous biz-babble.
  5. Use it! There’s no point in going through this process (which can take many days) if you aren’t actually going to use the result. Core values aren’t meant to be words posted on a boardroom wall for executives to high-five each other over. They’re a navigational tool meant to be used by ALL staff, and at all levels of the company. Anything less than this is a waste of time.

Well Show You Ours

An article about core values and why they matter would be much good if we didn’t share with you what this process did for us!

  1. Better hires! Our core values are used when evaluating potential candidates for employment. An interviewee can be the most skilled, experienced and gifted individual in the world but if he or she does not exhibit our core values naturally, we aren’t interested.
  2. Better choices. Whenever we’re facing a tough decision about an investment, project or challenge we always weigh it against the core values (in addition to other strategic and tactical considerations, of course). If a decision doesn’t line up, we don’t do it. That simple
  3. Less waste. Bench-marking everything against this level of self-awareness means less wasted time, effort and capital.

Dogwoods Core Values

Dig Deep | Some people find excuses to quit when challenges arise – we find solutions. We go above and beyond to deliver on our promises, rise to the occasion, and get the job done. The spirit of our team lives in the extra mile.

Rise to the occasion no matter the challenge”

Walk the Talk | Our words and actions reflect the truth. We deal in honest and impeccable terms and don’t waste time sugar-coating reality or making unfounded promises. We are reliable, dependable, and focused on real actions that fulfill or exceed our commitments.

If you say youre going to do it – do it!”

Join Forces | Together we can move mountains! In all aspects of our business we operate through a mindset of seamless teamwork, valuable collaboration with vendors, and partnerships with our clients. By jumping into the same boat and rowing in unison we empower our staff to win, our business to thrive and our customers to excel. It always starts with culture, people, and a mindset of abundance.

Collaboration over competition”

Build with both hands | Call it enthusiasm, integrity, or inner fire – we’re driven by passion and purpose to produce extraordinary results. We are a high-performance culture, which means we push ourselves to achieve success. By embracing accountability at all levels, we shoulder the burden of carrying the load and caring deeply about the outcome of every project, relationship and task.

Own it!”

Learn more about us here.