Your core values can typically be discovered and defined once your team has reached the size of about 3-5 people. If your team is larger, that’s OK too, just focus on your best people – the ones you would enthusiastically rehire.
Examine the qualities of your best people and work out what the common traits are. They are the sort of traits you want all your future hires to exhibit. You typically look for ~5 traits which will be your core values.
eg. Here are ours (followed by a brief description)
DEVOTED COMMUNICATION: I am devoted to communication that is timely, specific, appropriate and understandable throughout all my relationships.
TRUSTED ADVISOR: I always give my best advice to help other people and look after their best interests.
STRATEGY + EXECUTION: I develop strategies, plan the execution and ship fast.
CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT: I continually find better ways of doing things.
ECSTATIC PEOPLE: I am empowered to WOW.
Note: it doesn’t matter what your core values are, as long as you have them! And live by them. They should written be in language your team actually uses and be very ‘real’ to your team.
Then you simply hire people who already possess these traits. Your recruitment and interviewing process should look to identify these.
Note: You cannot ‘impose’ your values on people — they must already be exhibited in the people.
Then you make your hire, fire and promotion decisions based on how well your team live and breath the core values…. A great culture is built on the foundation of core values. It’s simple but not easy 😉
Of course, no ‘core values’ article is complete without a hat-tip to Jim Collins and his book Good to Great. And also Tony Hseih at Zappos as a living breathing example of a company to emulate. We have tried to follow Jim’s and Tony’s advice as best we can, and this short blog post encapsulates our experience at Bluewire Media.