Getting Core Values to Become Your Organizations Culture

by | Jan 22, 2013

Developing and maintaining a prevailing, healthy and sustainable organizational culture is one of the golden rings of leadership.  Getting this type of organizational culture in place that can outlast the leader is even a bigger challenge.

Courtesy of www.freedigitalprints.net via "Salvatore Vuono"

Courtesy of www.freedigitalprints.net via “Salvatore Vuono”


Positive Evidence

It’s the kind of thing I experienced recently with our Culligan man. We ordered salt for our softener.  I wasn’t looking forward to carrying several 50 pound bags to our basement. Turns out, I shouldn’t have worried.  When I got home from work, our Culligan man had carried the bags to the basement. Then I made two discoveries that have made me a Culligan evangelist.  First, I opened the salt bin to fill it and found that the Culligan man already had.  Second, he had taken the empty bags…including 5 I had there, with him. Their website list six characteristics of a Culligan man.  These core values have become evident at every level of their company.  They have become their culture.

Negative Evidence

Compare this to the experience I have had dealing with the home builder, Wayne Homes.  This is a company that claims on their blog their 1st core value is; “…provide an outstanding customer service” and ends with their 7th “… a team that builds great homes.” I have not experienced these core values.  For example, just one of the issues we’ve had is the siding.  Pieces of it would simply fall off the house on days with no wind, I wouldn’t call that quality.  We had the siding “serviced” more than 5 times.  We now have siding that is bent and two different colors.  A couple times they left pieces of siding and medal in the yard, giving me more work to do cleaning up after them. So how does a leader ensure core values become the foundation of their organizations culture? Let me share how I do it in my day job at camp.

  1. Our core values are memorable by associating them to the five fingers on a hand.  Why?  Memorization by association leads to thought resurrection.
  2. We start introducing our core values immediately  We have created five of our interview questions to relate to our core values.
  3. Every meeting agenda starts with five points each connecting to one core value.
  4. Performance Reviews consist of 7 questions, the first 5 being our core values.
  5. Our “customers” know them.  We teach them to our campers and refer to them daily.
  6. Incentives are based on them.
  7. They are used as our “decision tree” to decide if a new activity will be implemented at camp.  All five values must be upheld for us to add a new activity.
  8. Staff vote on awards of recognition based on the criteria in our core values.

Here are our core values and the corresponding <finger>.

  • Safety First (physical, emotional and spiritual) <Pointer Finger>
  • Respect (for people, camp and creation) <Middle Finger> WITH Pointer Finger….or it’s just the middle finger, and that isn’t respectful)
  • Commitment to spiritual birth, growth and renewal <Ring Finger>, aka Commitment Finger, that’s why I wear my wedding band there for example.
  • Make and deepen friendships <Pinky Finger>, pinky swear w/ BFF
  • Have Fun (Unbelievably Creative Fun…Have Over-the-top, indescribable with modern language FUN!)  <A big thumbs up>

Care To Share

What other techniques are there to weave core values into the fabric of organizational culture? What are examples of positive experiences you’ve had with organizations that exemplify their core values?