I don’t know about you but when someone mentions a mission statement I think of a room of lots of people throwing out ideas with the end result pure confusion because everyone has great ideas. The mission statement emerges some beautifully polished statement that no one really understands except the people in the room. They spout off the mission statement as if memorized from a notecard and you’re left with, “what does that even mean?”
Creating Core Values
I believe everyone has to have a purpose in their life and business. Why? Because when times get rocky or tough, you have to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. And it has to be something that is easily understandable or you’ll look back at the statement with the same response everyone else had — “what does that even mean, anyway?”
There are several ways to write down a mission or vision statement, there are experts out there who do this for a living. I’m not one of them, but I am someone who knows how to interrogate my own thoughts, ask good questions, and come up with a focused direction on the other side. I like to start with core values, what you and the company hold as those pieces you will lean into when times are good and times are tough. Here’s how to come up with your company or life core values.
Best number of core values
Before creating core values for Simple Pin Media I thought the number didn’t really matter. It was just what was important to the leadership, but that’s not the case. First, people have to remember what they are. If you give them a list of 10 they will forget some and therefore they will be unimportant. In all the books I’ve read, including Traction, they recommend 3-5 for the company with a purpose statement to accompany the core values.
We settled on seven core values — Communication, Initiative, reliable, adaptable, professional, uplifting, and authentic. These adequately described what we valued, people could remember them, but in the end, it was too many. After two years and some outside wisdom, we dropped them to five. We removed adaptable and authentic. It wasn’t that we didn’t value those pieces but we felt like the other core values embodied those values. The team knows what they are but more importantly, they remember why we have them. Some team members have even used them as filters with clients and team members to ensure their actions are within the core values of the company. I’d call that a win!
Choosing core values
Before you head into your planning with your team, however big or small that is, make sure you take at least an hour to write down values that are important to you. Note that this practice can also be done alone if you’re a solopreneur but it’s helpful to have a mastermind or friend help you sort through the words and give feedback.
Communication was something important to me from the beginning. In fact, it’s my number on the Strengths Finders test. I learned that a few years after I chose it as a core value. I believe communication between people, clients, and the community can help to bridge a gap that makes people feel known and seen. To feel heard, understood, and as if someone values who they are and what they do. Communication became the number one core value in my company and life.
We busted out the white board and listed everything. There was no editing this list. It’s a brain dump. Put every word on the list. Keep it words, not statements. That will be saved for your purpose statement. Once everyone has exhausted their options begin the first process of editing. Go through the list and have people vote for each word. Take the words with the most votes and move them to a second list.
Now it’s time to put some words on the chopping block. Remind the people in the room that removing their word is not an offense to them, this is focused on the company not our feelings. Narrow your list to at least 7-10 based on votes of the people in the room. Then take a break — at least 30 minutes. Let your brain rest. Let the teams brain rest. We want the final decision to be made with a clear mind. No drinking allowed at this meeting. Save the booze for celebration once you’ve decided.
Finalizing Core Values
Deep breath, you’re back in front of the white board. Instead of hitting the chopping block, choose the best. What is the one word everyone loves. Go through and vote on your 7-10 and whatever words have the most votes, that’s the one you choose. Rinse and repeat, what’s the second favorite, third, forth, and stop at the fifth.
Circle the winners on your list and look at it. Does everyone feel good with the final words? Do they embody the company and what you want team members and clients to know about you? If yes, lock it down.
Sharing Your Core Values
Core Values are simply words on a page until you share them with your team. Here are the best ways to share core values with your team and clients.
- Write them up on a branded notecard and send to all employees via mail or an in-person meeting. We used Canva for this and had them shipped to me. Then I distributed in an all-team in-person meeting.
- At the meeting tell everyone about each core value and give an example of how this core value can be implemented within the company, working with clients or customers. You can even do a fun activity where the team comes up with a coat of arms using the core values. We did this and it was a blast! The winning coat of arms team won a prize. Not only was it fun but people remembered it.
- Add them to your website on your about page and explain what each one means. Here’s an example from Simple Pin Media on our hiring page. We also have them listed on the Simple Pin Media about page.
- Use them in client calls. Tell them what’s most important to you. Communication is always mentioned when we walk through our onboarding process. That it’s important to us the client knows what is going to happen next, has a pathway to ask questions and that we will be ready to answer their questions within 24 hours.
Keeping Core Values Front of Mind
It’s really easy to forget core values after the meeting is done and you’ve added them to your website. Fight for them to be top of mind, it won’t happen naturally. Revisit them frequently during training and team meetings. It’s easy to let them fade into the background, but make them just as important as your business roadmap.
When you’re ready to do this for your life, try the same approach. Just you and a pen and some words. I have three for me personally — Helpful, Inquisitive, Guide. I am to be these three things for my family, my ministry, and my friends. I like to ask great questions, I’m open to helping people at any time and I like to guide people toward action.
Now it’s your turn to take action and create your own Core Values.
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