2 Lessons on Core Company Values from CEOs

Recognize This! – Determining core values must be a joint exercise with an end-game of making them part of the daily work for all employees, everywhere.

Following on yesterday’s post about why company culture is important (from the viewpoint of two experts), today I’m sharing why company values are important, from the viewpoint of two CEOs.

Lesson 1: Developing Core Values Should Be a Shared Exercise.

From Ken Rees, president and chief executive of Think Finance (in the New York Times “Corner Office” column):

“The first [company values] I developed myself. But four months later, I said: ‘That really isn’t the way you create cultural values. Let’s do this in a more broad-based fashion.’ So we opened it up, and we had the whole company talking about this, with a lot of very detailed discussions about every word. …

“I think a good C.E.O. should have a certain level of insecurity about whether they really get it. Nobody wants to be the pointy-haired boss from ‘Dilbert.’ And it just came to me: ‘My gosh, I came up with these cultural values. Does everyone agree with them? They tell me they do. But I don’t know if it’s really representative. So let me push this out, and make sure that we get those ideas straight from the horse’s mouth.’”

Lesson 2: Core Values Should be Universal (and Universally Understood) by All Employees, Everywhere

From Christopher J. Nassetta, president and chief executive of Hilton Worldwide (also in the New York Times “Corner Office” column):

“We always had good values, but I just don’t think people understood what they really were. In those first months when I traveled around the world, I stopped counting when I got to 30 different value statements at our offices. So we tried to simplify everything. …

“We did a lot of work with teams around the world, and asked people to look at all their values statements and boil them down. Then we took all those ideas with us on a two-day offsite with about 12 of us. There was a lot of overlap, and we tried to consolidate it… I started looking around the room and at the letters and they came together as HILTON — H for hospitality, I for integrity, L for leadership, T for teamwork, O for ownership and N for now. To reinforce them, we are constantly referring to the letters — in newsletters, in town halls — almost to the point where we are driving people crazy. But it works.”

How did your company develop its core values? Do you know what they are? More importantly, do you know what those values look like in what you and your colleagues do every day?

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.

2 Responses

  1. Identifying the company’s core values is onle the first step. Because words have different meanings to different people (eg. what the hect does “now” mean), the company must involve everyone in defining what behaviors the values advocate and what behaviors they prohibit. Also, to give meaning to the values, each person should define what they mean in their job.

    Check out The Value of Core Values: Five Keys to Success through Values-Centered Leadership for more information.

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