Your Core Values Suck and Everyone Knows It!

Photo Credit:  David Williss

Photo Credit: David Williss

6 Signs That Your Core Values Suck

Does your organization have well defined core values?


I’m willing to bet that they suck, and I’m here to explain how you can figure out if they do and also how to fix them.


First, let’s define exactly what core values are. does it in one sentence:

“A principle that guides an organization’s internal conduct as well as its relationship with the external world.”

With that sentence firmly in mind, here are

6 Signs That Your Core Values Suck

1. Your Core Values Were Created by Management Only

One day it happened. The management team was struck by what could only be determined as a pure afternoon of clarity and brilliance.

Behind closed doors and with no input from the rest of the team, the core values were discussed, agreed on, and set in stone. No one below the top was asked what kind of organization they thought they were working for. No one was asked if the core values made sense to them. No one asked if team members were willing to spend 40 hours a week (or more) living that belief system day in and day out. The core values were handed down from power-drunk leaders, much like gods handing down the new organizational commandments etched on corporate stone tablets.

This was the day that the merely mortal management team blew it.

2. Your Employees Cannot Recite Your Core Values When Asked

Get up out of your seat right now. Or if you are already at one of those cool standing desks, keep standing. Now, walk out of your office and ask three people in different spots of the office to tell you what the core values are and what they mean. They didn’t know them? Did all of them know? If they did, your core values might not suck, but be sure to check whether or not….

3. Your Team Members Look Dead Inside When They Recite the Core Values.

Let’s pretend you asked your team members what the core values are, and they answered correctly. Holy crap, the management team gods are geniuses!


Did you look at the team member as they stated the core values? Did they look dead inside? Did their eyes glaze over with an eerie glassiness? Did they look at the floor in shame? Did they resemble a zombie from The Walking Dead?

If so, then I have a diagnosis for you. It is a not-so-rare disease called YourCoreValuesSuck-Itis.

You have successfully spread the knowledge of what the core values are, but if the team is reciting them like a 10 year old reciting multiplication tables, you have only improved their memory skills, not the company culture.

4. Your Core Values Are Not Displayed In Your Office.

When someone visits your office, they should see your core values within the first 5 minutes of being there. The team members should see the core values publically displayed every time they enter the building. It is a constant visual reminder of how to conduct oneself within your particular company. If you have a virtual team with locations spread across the world, then the core values should be stickered onto their computer or their screen saver when they boot up.

Seeing is not just believing. Seeing is a reminder and a constant guide that legitimizes the values that should be adopted.

I can hear you already: “Our core values are a bunch of words. It will take a lot of space to display them everywhere. You want us to plaster that all over the office?” To which I have say...

Why are they so long? The golden rule is a maximum of 11 words. “Just do it”, “Think different”, and “Don’t be evil” are all powerful messages that have been condensed to fit on a bumper sticker. An idea can be bigger than the size of the sentence that contains it.

5. Your Core Values Haven’t Been Reviewed or Challenged for Quite Some Time.

Times and people change. The core values should be reviewed quarterly by the leadership team and challenged. If you can’t remember why you decided on these values or they no longer fit the organization, then consider changing them. Core values shouldn’t change often, but when they need to, remember the lesson from #1 above and make sure to include team members in the creation of new core values.

6. Hiring, Firing, Evaluations and Recognition Are Not Based On Your Core Values

If you’ve read this far and are still pretty sure your core values don’t suck, you have done a killer job! Now for the final and most important test -

Are the core values being reinforced in truly meaningful ways? Are the people at your organization really living the message?

My company uses Mark Winters and the EOS system to help our company grow. Mark taught us years ago to hire, fire and evaluate using our core values. No one is hired to the company unless they are a culture match for the company. Evaluation discussions are open, and both management and the employee measure how well the team member embodies the core values. When a team member cannot accurately represent the core values and it has been determined they never will, they are set free either by their own choice or by management.

Sound brutal? Baloney.

If an organization is serious about their core values and the happiness of their team members, then it recognizes that these core values will not be for everyone. It will be for a select few who will find happiness and fulfillment there. Your job as a manager is to help people find their professional fulfillment and happiness at your company: so don’t be a wuss. Hire Faster. Fire Faster. Be free and honest with compliments. Tie rewards to team members exemplifying the core values and recognize them often in front of their peers.

I invite you to put your company’s core values to the test and let me know the truth.

Do your core values suck?

(This piece originally appeared on The Huffington Post.)