Superior Performance Requires Mastering Core Values: Article 2 of 2

by Howard Shore, Date: Nov 14, 2009

Superior Performance Requires Mastering Core Values: Article 2 of 2

If you study any organization that exemplifies sustained superior performance, you will find a remarkable culture. This culture is defined and constructed around the core values institutionalized by your executive team. In other words, the core values, when practiced on a daily basis, help top companies become more successful than their competition. This article discusses how implement core values into your organization.

It takes discipline and diligence to create a culture. You must instill your core values in everything you do, every day, and in every way. The number one reason core values do not get ingrained in many businesses is that most senior executives do not live them. If the top three executives (e.g. CEO, COO, and CFO) are not role models, you may expect that the rest of their employees will not consistently exhibit the company’s stated core values.

Once you have developed your values, execution through spaced repetition and consistency is imperative. This is the most difficult and important part of forming your culture. Everything we have learned in life we have learned through spaced repetition. Think about how you learned the multiplication tables. Indeed, this is the method the advertising world uses to imprint the messages they want us to receive. Likewise, an organization must develop a system for all employees to regularly hear, see, and act the company values.

In Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, by Verne Harnish, in the chapter “Mastering the Use of Core Values,” he does an excellent job of identifying how to institutionalize core values into your organization. Mr. Harnish has put together the following checklist to make sure that you do not have a gap in building core values into your business. If you have not read this book and want to accelerate the growth of your business, I highly recommend it!

  • Storytelling – Everybody enjoys a good story, and many great leaders have taught through parable or storytelling. Identify some “legends” and current stories that demonstrate each value. Stories can provide explanations for any core values that might seem unusual or cryptic on their own.
  • Recruitment and Selection – Design your interview questions and assessments to test a candidate’s alignment with your core values. Then, rate the person in terms of their perceived alignment with each core value. Your goal, after all, is to make sure your new hires fit in to your organization’s culture.
  • Orientation – Once hired, your new employee must be brought into the culture. Like many social organization initiations, orientation (you do have one?) is when you can inculcate the company’s core values. Consider organizing your orientation around the teaching of your core values.
  • Performance Appraisal and Handbooks – Core values should provide the framework on which you build your performance appraisal system. With a little creativity, any performance measure can be made to link with a core value. In addition, organize your employee handbook into sections around each core value.
  • Recognition and Reward – Organize your recognition and reward categories around your core values. You also gain a new source of corporate stories and legends each time a reward or recognition is given that highlights a core value.
  • Newsletters – Why struggle to come up with a catchy title for a newsletter when some word or phrase from your core values will do beautifully? Highlight a core value with each issue, incorporating stories – yes, more stories – about people putting these core values to work for the betterment of the company.
  • Themes – Use your core values to bring attention to your corporate improvement efforts. Milliken, the textile manufacturer, takes one of their six core values and makes it the theme for the quarter, asking all employees to focus on ways to improve the company around the theme. The Ritz-Carlton chain goes to the other extreme and highlights worldwide one “rule” everyday. In either case, establish a rhythm that keeps the core values top-of-mind in a repetitive fashion.
  • Everyday Management – I’ve found that managers and CEOs can repeat core values almost endlessly without it seeming ridiculous – so long as the core values they’re using truly are relevant and meaningful to their employees. When you make a decision, relate it to a value. When you reprimand or praise, refer to a value. When customer issues arise, by all means, compare the situation to the ideal represented by the value. Small as these actions may sound, they probably do more than any of the aforementioned strategies for bringing core values alive in your organization.


One of the hidden secrets to maximizing corporate growth and profits is the establishment of core values. If you want to see employee satisfaction, employee retention, customer loyalty, new business growth, vendor loyalty, an improved pool of job candidates, innovation, and brand improvement, focus on core values. The rest will follow.

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