Core Values: Getting to the Heart of Things

Written by Professional Academy Management and Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights

If you were stuck in a lift and someone asked you what your core values were, would you have an answer? What if that same person asked you what your organisation’s core values were, would you be able to reel them off with ease?

Why core values are important

Core values are traits or qualities that embody who a person is or what an organisation stands for. They are deeply held beliefs that provide the driving force behind a person’s or organisation’s behaviour.

When you have clearly defined vales you make better decisions, hire better staff and even date better people.

Think of them as your smart tool that you can use to ace at life.

Core values in your personal life

If you’re single who would be your ideal partner?

What makes personal relationships successful is when two people share similar values. When this is the case they help each other to pull in the same direction and life feels easy.

Being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t align with your values is a recipe for disaster. One or both people usually find themselves over compromising in order to satisfy the other person. This can manifest into anger and /or regret in the long term.

Being honest with yourself about what you really value and then finding a suitable match is key. And the workplace is no different.

Core values in the workplace

If you work for an organisation whose values do not match with your own then you’ll always feel a sense of resentment. This will lower your motivation levels along your underlying sense of happiness and fulfilment.

When you work for an organisation who aligns with your core values then the benefits are realised in both directions.

Core values in the workplace help organisations:

  • Hire better staff – when an organisation knows what’s important, they can hire people who think the same way. You can train for skill but you can’t train for will.
  • Communicate what is important – when staff know what’s important, they can work more productively and produce better results for their clients.
  • Promote positive behaviour patterns – organisations should encourage staff to ‘live out’ their core values.
  • Inspire people – when everyone is aligned with an organisation’s core values, they pull together and feel inspired to achieve common goals.

Three ways core values will improve your life

The benefits of core values cross over between personal and professional life.

Firstly, they help you to prioritise what is important so that you can make better decisions. If you value time over money, then a job with a long commute or an organisation with a stressful work environment won’t be for you. Always ask yourself, ‘Am I making this decision based on my values?” If the answer is no, drop it and move on.

Secondly, they help to keep you motivated. A lot of people can stay motivated over a short period of time but not in the long term. Without motivation, everything feels difficult. However, when you know that your decisions have been based on your values you’ll be inspired to keep going, even during the tough times.

Thirdly, they help to foster positive relationships. Being clear on your values will help you make sure that you seek out and spend time with the people who share your values.

How to work out your own core values

There is no magic formula you can use to define your core values and you might find they change over time, especially after a significant life event e.g. having children.

However, here are some questions to help you get your mind thinking:

  • What have been your three greatest accomplishments? Why?
  • What have been your three greatest failures? Why?
  • When are you at your happiest? Why?
  • When are you at your unhappiest? Why?
  • What have been you best decisions? Why?
  • What have been your worst decisions? Why?

Reflect on your answers and try to identify any themes that could point to a value that you have. A mind map can be useful here.

Answering the questions above will take some time, possibly a few months. Be kind to yourself and keeping re-visiting the questions and testing your answers to evolve your values and settle on your final list (I’d suggest coming up with a top five).

Good luck!

If you need further advice, get in touch via LinkedIn.

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