4 Steps To Set Your Company’s EOS Core Values
In the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS)® Core Values™ define the company culture and personality. But how can a leadership team be sure they are setting the right EOS Core Values? What makes a good Core Value? Following these 6 steps is a great way to get EOS Core Values that truly reflect what your company stands for.
Step 1: List Out Your Personal Values
It doesn’t matter if you own a small business of one or sit on the leadership team for a multi-million dollar business. Defining your own Core Values is the first step in understanding your company Core Values. Try to list out about 10 potential values, each somewhere between 1-5 words. It’s OK to go a little over, if it’s important, but no full sentences.
Some people have lofty, ethical Core Values that drive them. These people tend to write down Core Values like “Honesty & Integrity”, “Say what you mean; mean what you say”, or “Helping people.”
Just as many people will likely write down much more approachable, day-to-day values like “Have fun working”, “Keep a cool head”, or “Don’t bull*** each other” (I’ve actually seen that last one).
The likelihood is that you’ll have some combination of both. After you have a list of 10, start scratching off the ones that aren’t as important. Remember, just because you scratch it off doesn’t mean it isn’t a value. It just isn’t an EOS Core Value, the kind that really defines who you are.
When you are down to about 3-5, you’ve got your Core Values.
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Step 2: Have Your Leadership Team Create Core Values For The Company
After your leadership team has created their own personal Core Values, schedule a meeting to discuss company Core Values. Make it somewhere outside the office, but quiet. It’s important to feel free from the day to day tasks that come with being on location.
Your leadership team has already done their own personal Core Values, so they know the process. This time, as a team, work to create Core Values that you think represent and define the company. Using the same process as above, put about 10 potential values on a white board or paper so everyone can see them. Use the Keep, Kill, Combine system to narrow that list down to 3-5 true Core Values.
Some of these may be the same as your personal Core Values, especially in smaller, more intimate businesses. That’s fine. In fact, it’s great news, because it means your team is a natural fit. If you have very different or conflicting Core Values, you may have some signs of an unhealthy leadership team.
On a very small team (under 10), you will probably find that don’t really have a leadership team. You just have a team. In that situation, have each person create their list of their own personal Core Values. Look for places where these overlap. Wherever you have commonly stated personal Core Values, you have company Core Values.
Step 3: Ask Yourself The Most Important Question
Now that you have your EOS Core Values listed out, it’s time to pose a very hard question to your leadership team: is this who we are, who we want to be, or who we want to be seen as?
Ideally, the answer is all three. Your team represents those values, wants to continue to do so, and wants the world to know. If not, here are some very common results:
- Who we want to be, but not who we are: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with aspiring. Wanting to be better is what makes us great! Just be sure you are being realistic. If one or two of your Core Values are “aspirational Core Values”, then you’ve set a great goal for your team. If all of them are, you’re lying to yourself.
- Not who we are, but how we want to be seen: This is the most common mistake I see in setting Core Values. A leadership team wants to choose values that project a positive image, but have nothing to do with who they really are. They set values like “we have fun” even though they absolutely do not. Or they commit to “Diversity” when really they don’t care about the topic. Core Values like this are a non-starter. Trying to commit to them is bound to create far more issues than it fixes and can sink company morale faster than you can imagine. If you have chosen Core Values that add up to a facade, it’s time to start from scratch or reexamine who you are as an organization.
- Who we are AND who we want to be, but not how we want to be seen: At first glance, this seems the same as the previous result, but there is a key difference. If you have Core Values that are true to the company culture you have and want, but not your image, you have some decisions to make. Maybe you need to reexamine your brand image. Maybe you need to take steps to insulate the interior culture from the projected image. Whatever the answer, trying to change your Core Values to something that fits a false image, isn’t going to solve your problems.
Take a few weeks, months even, to think about these Core Values. Remember, a lot more harm is done in rushing than in taking it slow. Schedule a meeting a good ways down the line to come back and look at these Core Values with your leadership team. If the whole team is still on board, you’ve got Core Values that will work for years.
You may want to word smith your final product to give it that sense of poetry that conveys the weight of each concept to its reader. Just be sure you don’t get so caught up in sounding aesthetic that you lose the meaning.
Step 4: Commit To Your Core Values
But not immediately. Chew on them first. (See Interlude)
Once you are 100% ready with Core Values that truly represent your company culture, commit to them. Do one or all of the following:
- Announce the Core Values to the entire company. Make a show of it. Then, announce it again and again so people know this isn’t “flavor of the week”
- Reward employees based on adherence to these Core Values
- Hire people that fit these Core Values
- Create B2B relationships with companies with similar Core Values
- Evaluate employees based on Core Values
That’s it. If you’ve followed all of these steps, you’ve got EOS Core Values that will guide your company through even the most difficult decisions. Remember, when you define EOS Core Values that truly represent your organization, living by them is the easy part.
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Jeff Whittle is a Certified Dallas EOS Implementer.
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Jeff Whittle founded and launched Whittle & Partners in 2011. Before that, Jeff practiced law in Dallas for 15 years and has an additional 20 years of executive business experience. He has run businesses ranging from startups to 300-employee operations.