Discovering Your Core Values Addendum: Rules for Inspiration

Hey, social change agents!

You know how I always talk about core values? Well, I made a handy worksheet downloadable for those who wanted to create their core values and put it to the test. I got some great feedback from one of amazing clients who 'showed her work' in moving through the worksheet. After going through her work, it became clear that I needed to create some additional rules for core value statement creation since my original wasn't as clear as I had hoped. I'm actually ecstatic that she helped me see some flaws as one of MY core values is a commitment to continuous innovation. I've since updated my worksheet with new information and a brand new design, which you can get for free by signing up for my mailing list. With that, let's get into it!

Rules for Inspiration

I recommend employing the following rules to help you judge whether you have built clear and actionable core values statements:

  1. Does the phrase inspire others? Inspiration is a tricky thing to pin down, but what I mean by inspiration is the act of expanding one's thoughts beyond the current task and into where the task aligns with the mission. This can be quantified by the number or percentage of times someone goes above and beyond what is strictly their job to provide additional resources or insight that can support teammates and the organization's overall mission.
  2. Can the phrase be measured via specific metrics? This is important to be able to report on your organization's health and commitment level to practicing what you preach. Measurable means being able to point to key performance indicators that have a numerical value to establish a baseline by which you can continue to measure your progress. No numbers, not measurable.
  3. Can the phrase be used as a lens through which behavior is modified? People have to be able to embody this core value trait. An outside person should be easily able to look at individual and organizational habits as a means of identifying the core value being exercised.

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This is How We Do It!

Here’s a handy exercise I like to use to help ground the core values statements in real-world situations. Envision specific job roles that aren’t as clearly mission-aligned with program, service, or initiative delivery such as an accounting, sales, operations, or even custodial. Think about whether they can also participate in embodying those core values and subtly tweak their actions or performance to reflect those values. An accountant comes to their position (presumably) with a whole host of skills they learned through their accounting training. They can clearly do their job without the core values, but they should be inspired to emulate the qualities of the core values while doing their job. Instead of just creating profit and loss (P&L) statements for given activities, a core value of collaboration may drive them to take 20 minutes to speak with those who enacted those activities to learn about how expenses could be decreased and income could be increased. They might provide a P&L that displays the numerical outcomes but accompanied with suggestions that could make the activity even more profitable or more efficient so as to reduce the administrative load on their teammates. This core value of collaboration coupled with a core value focusing on service to a specific minority community could further morph this P&L with efficiency recommendations to a P&L with both efficiency and structural improvement suggestions that address a specific struggle of that community so that the activities require both less administrative oversight and more impact on the communities identified in the mission, vision, and core values. This is an example of core values that inspire even the most routine and regulated team members and act as a lens through which behavior is modified. Further, both collaboration and service to minority communities can be measured by the number of minutes spent discussing continuous improvement between two job roles and the % improvement in key performance metrics the resulting collaboration created for target populations, respectively. This is a short example of what core values can do to an accounting role. When crafting your core values, think about how you would inspire a cross-section of your organization’s functional roles like sales, community organizing, customer service, engineering, accounting, and custodial.

Blog Ending

By taking core values seriously and to their logical conclusions, you can build an organizational culture focused on the the exact things you want your organization to model in your community and in the world.

If you enjoyed this post, you'll love my upcoming free webinar on Finding Your Social Enterprise Mission and Vision. I'm guest speaking for an amazing organization called the Ron Brown Scholar Program (RBS), a scholarship which provides African-American high school students with $40,000 to attend college AND an active, supportive community for college persistence!

Click here to sign up for the webinar, and click here to learn more about RBS.