Why Your Company’s Core Values May Be The Most Toxic Part of Your Company Culture

Take 30 seconds and read the Core Values below:

  1. Communication – We have an obligation to communicate.
  2. Respect – We treat others as we would like to be treated.
  3. Integrity – We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly, and sincerely.
  4. Excellence– We are satisfied with nothing less than the very best in everything we do.

How do these core values compare to your company’s core values? Are they eerily similar? Well; you may be surprised to learn the source of these core values. Which company they came from. They were actually taken from Enron’s Annual Report in 2000.

In my first company I built, I refused to make core values because I hated all of that “fluffy” stuff. THat’s what I thought core values were. Like feel good platitudes similar to what are listed above that were hung in the supply room and no one looked at them. Then finally at the prodding of a mentor, we put core values up. But they were core values we partially borrowed from another company and were totally aspirational.

They looked something like the following; We Look Like Calvin Klein Models, We’ve Never Told a Lie, etc, etc. I only joke about them being that extreme, but if your core values for your company aren’t part of the company DNA, than they are toxic to your company culture.

Why Toxic?

As leaders, we’re constantly being watched by our team members. And they’re watching us closely to see if we really mean what we say. When we post and say we abide by a certain set of values but betray them, it destroys trust with the people we’re seeking to lead and trust is the foundation of leadership. Within my company; the lack of trust was completely alive. People distrusted me because there were a set of Aspirational Core Values on the wall that no one could live up to.

What can YOU do?

The first step is to get honest with your team about where your core values came from. Maybe they were more aspirational and a good idea vs. the DNA of our company. When I say DNA what I mean is literally alive and engrained in our team. Then re-define what your company’s core values are and bring them forward.

Need guidance with defining your company’s authentic core values? Jim Collins article in the Harvard Business Review is a great resource. https://hbr.org/1996/09/building-your-companys-vision  If you would like some further help, reach out. We’re experts at helping clients define their core values and make them come alive in your organization.