Core Values

Once your team has worked together for a while, establish your Core Values.

Core Values serve as guiding principles for behaviors of a team of high-performing individuals. In general, they govern how individuals present themselves, how they relate to each other, how they manage work, and how they build their practice. They are short statements that begin, “We (verb.)” For example:

  • We own the outcome by finding and filling gaps.
  • We assume noble intent.
  • We hold the space for others to be successful.
  • We practice abundance, sharing our time, talents, and knowledge freely with others.
  • We co-create from our strengths.
  • We ask “why” and “what if” questions.

Core Values tap into individuals’ most personal motivators. They should touch the nerves of those that write and read them. They are profoundly meaningful to those that share them.

Unlike other group processes, there is no clustering, categorization, or conflation. After carefully framing the conversation, participants look within themselves and simply write statements that are deeply meaningful to them on individual stickies. They read the Core Value, then place them on a common wall. In doing so, they are tacitly agreeing to hold themselves accountable to the behavior implicit in the Core Value. Others likewise agree to exhibit the same behavior. Core Values aren’t polished or edited, but remain exactly as they were written so as to maintain a connection with the writer, who becomes the advocate of that behavior.

Core Values aren’t for forming teams. They are for teams that have already had some time functioning together. When I facilitate this exercise, I can tell what kind of team I’m dealing with based on how they handle it. Those that debate each other on Core Values are still forming. Those that silently nod their agreement and accept the standards of the Core Values are the high-performers. 

The best way to bring Core Values into practice is for each team member to keep them in a place where they are immediately “zero-click” accessible. That way, they can serve to guide decisions through ambiguity and uncertainty. In practice, when Core Values are being used, teams realize that most tough decisions and wicked problems have already been decided by the Core Values.

Core Values are living documents and should be revisited whenever the team resets itself. A Core Values exercise can be facilitated in less than an hour.