Operationalizing Core Values

Bob Sevier

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I have been spending a lot of time lately thinking about core values;
that list of qualities that are framed and placed strategically
throughout campus.

Chances are that an inordinate amount of time went into defining
those values. It is likely that meetings were held, debate ensued around
each iterations the final list was rolled out with great fanfare.

But what interests me is not the values themselves, but rather how
the values are operationalized. In other words, how do these core values
govern what people do and how they act?

Many believe that core values define organizational culture. And for the most part they do.

In his leadership podcast, Craig Groeschel adds another dimension to the conversation. Groeschel says that “An organizational culture is what you create and what you allow.”.

Craig Groeschel adds another dimension to the conversation. Groeschel says that “An organizational culture is what you create and what you allow.”

He is making the case that culture is a blend of your core values and organizational behavior.

Let me explain why this nuance is important.

If the “core values” state that people are valued, but people are actually treated poorly, there is an incongruence.

If the core values state that that open debate and candor are
important, but people are afraid to offer their opinion, there is
incongruence.

If the core values state that effectiveness is valued, but there is no accountability, there is incongruence.

Over time, these incongruities will become an enormous source of tension and conflict. Fewer and fewer people will not know what behaviors and actions are truly valued. And a likely result: Your best people will leave and your worst people will hold sway.

As chief culturist, the leader must continually reinforce behaviors that are consistent with the culture and address behaviors that are not.

As chief culturist, the leader must continually reinforce behaviors that are consistent with the culture and address behaviors that are not.

At the very least this includes:

  • Having a high sensitivity to cultural incongruities
  • Continually reinforcing the values that define your culture
  • Monitoring what behaviors flow from your stated culture
  • Recruiting, hiring, and training for your culture
  • Reprimand and even fire for your culture

One final thought. If there is continual incongruity between your
stated core values and how your people act either you have the wrong
people or you have the wrong values.

Again, it is the leader’s job to identify and treat the source of incongruity.

Great cultures—cultures that align word with deed—attract great
people. Make it a leadership priority to continually monitor what you
say and what you do.

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