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The concept of Core Values is one we’ve discussed before, but some recent experiences have brought it to the front of my mind once again.  Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to visit with several individuals who are confronted with almost identical situations.  These individuals are the leaders of very profitable businesses.  From the outside, things seem to be going very well – the business is growing, the owners are making money, etc.  However, there are some internal issues.  In each case, the individual who is responsible for a significant portion of the business’s growth apparently never learned how to play nice with other people when he was a kid.  Revenues go up, profits go up, but the stress level of the people who work with and for this individual (not to mention the leader) goes up with it.  Not surprisingly, morale is sinking fast.  As a business leader, what do you do?

To me, the answer is pretty straightforward:  What do your Core Values say?  Most businesses say their core values are things like integrity, respect, honesty, etc.  Are they really?  If part of your business behaves in a way that contradicts those values, what do you do?  If one of your employees completely ignores company policy, treats staff in a condescending manner, and pretty much acts like they run the place, is that demonstrating respect?

If someone behaves that way and you as the leader do nothing about it, what that tells me is that your core values really aren’t respect, etc.  Your core value is $$$, and you’ll tolerate anything to get it.  If that’s who you want to be, then I guess that’s up to you.  If you’re like most people though, you’re looking for more from your business.  And if you are, behavior that doesn’t jive with your Core Values has to be addressed, up to and including exiting the guilty party from the business.  Yes, it might be bad for profitability & growth.  Yes, in the short run it may cause $$$ problems.  But remember, Core Values are about who you are as a business and who you are as a leader.

What do you want your business to say about who you are?

I would challenge all business leaders to take 10 minutes and think about your Core Values.  What’s really important?  And how do you know you have these?  And what are the consequences when someone violates them?  Does everyone in your business know what these Core Values are?  Want some help getting started?  I have put together a worksheet that you can use.  Simply email me at mrh@cainellsworth.com and I will send it back to you.

Core Values:  If you want others to believe it and live it…first you have to lead it.  Get a firm grip on your business’s core values.  It is the heart of your business.

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