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Core Values and Your Team: Where to Begin?

How many times have I heard a mission statement and thought, “I have no idea what that means”? Personality-wise, I am a doer, and mission statements rarely give me guidance on what I, or my team, are meant to actually do. Rather, I have found that determining a team’s core values help with what to do, how to be with one another (build a culture), and how to express those values beyond the team.

The purpose of team core values is to shine a light on the path that we will walk together.  

The purpose of team core values is to shine a light on the path that we will walk together. The light helps us identify the boundaries that need to be in place so that we create a safety container with and for each other. They help us define how we will behave with and towards each other in times of abundance and in scarcity, in celebration and in struggle, when we feel calm as well as when we are angry. Guideposts of how we will not act with each other are critical when stress is high and nothing seems to be going as planned. The core values, providing behavioral boundaries, help us navigate the inevitable crucial conversations that all teams must have if they want to remain healthy.

Core values not only identify how we treat each other, but also how we treat those outside of the organization -- our partners, vendors and clients. Where will we spend our resources, not only money but also our people, our time, and our intellect? Who is included in the meetings and in decision-making? Who has a voice, who is silenced, and why? Who is developed and promoted? Core values act as a matrix or a guide for future decision-making, both small and large.

Here are some guiding principles when doing core value work as expressed by Scott Osterberg in his book, Renegade Ministry.

Your team’s core values must be sustainable over the long-term and cannot be based on feelings. They can change over time, but it must be under extraordinary circumstances.

Your team’s core values must hold true regardless of if your team is thriving or struggling to survive. The values must be able to exist front and center as a priority, even when it is hard and painful.

Your team’s core values cannot be a wish list. These must be values that you are already living and are committed to in the future.

Your team’s core values must be specific to your team, not copied from some other team and adopted as your own.

Your team’s core values must be believed in so strongly that they are used as common language, posted and made central in policies and procedures.

In future posts, we will dig more into these guiding principles as we begin to develop ways for teams to discuss and determine what their core values are. Join me as I continue the conversation that Scott began with me, digging deeper into how to identify, verify and live into a team’s core values.

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