How to Make Your Core Values Come Alive

Recognize This! – How the work gets done is as important as it getting done.

Yesterday I wrote about how Proteus CEO Andrew Thompson changed the game at his company by changing the culture. Or rather, by establishing a culture based on peer-to-peer recognition of core values demonstrated in daily work.

It’s that critical element of recognizing how the work gets done that sets true leader organizations apart. Without a focus on the “how,” it’s easy to slip into “just get it done” – and that can lead to deviant behaviors (think Enron or the recent banking scandals).

That’s why Cris Beswick’s recent comment in HR Magazine struck so close to home for me:

“I think next generation competitive advantage is now being driven not by ‘what’ an organisation does but by ‘HOW’ it does it.”

Organizations seem to be able to define the “how” – the core values. It’s communicating those values in a way that makes to employees in their daily work where leaders stumble.

A Forbes article last week on “Motivating and Retaining the Best Employees” highlights this struggle in their advice to:

“Clearly state the company’s beliefs and values. Publish a company manifesto to ensure that every company action is in harmony with these stated goals.”

This doesn’t go nearly far enough. Publishing a manifesto of the company’s beliefs and values does no good if nobody reads it. Nobody reads even the simple plaque on the wall listing the values.

Instead, you must make those core values come alive in the daily work of every employee — such that they know beyond a doubt what “innovation” or “integrity” or “teamwork” looks like in what they do every day.

How do you make the abstract that intimately real? Simple – recognize and praise employees in a very specific and detailed way every time they demonstrate one of those values. Here’s an example:

“John, thanks for the great ‘teamwork’ on the MacGuffin project. You jumped in at the last moment to help us pull together the critical details and went out of your way to make sure we delivered more than the client could have hoped for. Your willingness to help in a crunch is what makes our team (and our company) a success.”

Such a detailed message with that level of specificity on what John did that demonstrated teamwork makes it real.

Do your employees know how to demonstrate your core values in their daily work? Do you?

Derek Irvine

About Derek Irvine

The VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their organizations. As a renowned speaker and co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and "Winning with a Culture of Recognition," he teaches companies how to use recognition to proactively manage company culture. Derek holds a B.Comm and Masters of Business Studies from the Smurfit Graduate Business School at University College Dublin.

9 Responses

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  3. […] Make those values real and clear with specific messages of praise and thanks for demonstrating those values with specific, strategic recognition. […]

  4. […] requests are not unreasonable – more feedback, from more sources, on things that matter to both their personal jobs as well as the organization as a whole. All employees are asking for is the big picture – where do I fit, does what I do […]

  5. […] do you bring your values to life? Another topic close to my heart. You must make the values real in the everyday work of every […]

  6. […] All good points on a metric that matters. I suggest a metric that meets all of these requirements in a positive way is employee recognition based on your core company values. […]

  7. […] All good points on a metric that matters. I suggest a metric that meets all of these requirements in a positive way is employee recognition based on your core company values. […]

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