Clarify Your Core Values

Number 3 in a Series of 4

Once you have addressed the Structure in Your Organization, the next discipline is Clarifying Your Values. You might take issue with that statement, because you think the first thing you should do is develop your values, but please don’t do that. Starting with Values is like putting a bigger motor in a car that doesn’t have any wheels; lots of horsepower, no forward motion. You need structure first, so you can put your values into action. Otherwise, they will become nothing more than placeholders on your website that atrophy into useless words. On the other hand, when your structure is clear, and everyone knows their role on the team, your values come to life and fuel your team every day.

A thousand books have been written on Values, so I won’t write another one here, but I want to stress three things:

  1. Clarify your values, do not create them. When you create values, you come up with fancy words that sound good to the outside world but don’t speak to your people. When you clarify your values, you pull out the true beliefs and motivations of your team, thereby defining the type of people you want to surround yourself with.
  2. Keep it brief, I recommend 4 to 6 values. Your core values are not a dissertation on the culture of your organization, they’re a small set of timeless principles that define who you are.
  3. Two great resources are an article by Patrick Lencioni called Make your Values Mean Something and the book Good to Great by Jim Collins.


As the leader of your organization, what are your next steps in clarifying your values? Do one of the following:

  1. If your organization has core values that are set in stone, find out what they are and drive them through your organization.
  2. If you have core values but are not sure they are the right ones, test them against the criteria in the Lencioni article and be willing to change them if necessary.
  3. If you don’t have core values, develop them. Get your team together and reach down deep in your gut and pull out those behaviors and beliefs that are so central that you will never go against them. Find the things you are willing to fail for. In other words, if you can honestly say to yourself “I would rather close my business (or leave this industry) than betray this value”, you might be on to a good core value.


My new construction client already had core values, but when we tested them we found that they were words on paper that most of the team had never heard of, so we clarified their true core values. We ended up with 5 simple statements that didn’t sound fancy but truly reflected the core of the people in that room. We were excited about driving the values through the business, but how would we do that? Read on…

In the next installment, we will be looking at building the team and getting the right people into the right roles.

As always, we welcome your input. If you wish to have a conversation as to how this might work with your organization, please feel free to reach out.