Core Values Not Motivational Posters Will Get You to Mars | Compass Point Skip to main content

Have you ever worked for an organization that had framed posters emblazoned with words like “Integrity,” “Motivation,” and “Teamwork?” They have inspiring stock photography to go along with the power word of choice, like an eagle soaring, a stunning beach sunrise, or a single drop falling into a body of water. Ahh yes…those posters.

How about the plaque with the title “Employee of the Month” and that month’s employee’s photo enshrined on the wall of a retail store or a quick-serve restaurant? Have you ever asked yourself, “What did the employee do to achieve such a title?” or wondered what it means to be the “Employee of the Month?”

Well, I’d like to scrap both of those vague 2D concepts in favor of a more dimensional and meaningful idea. One that isn’t just displayed on a wall but can be experienced. Before I tell you my idea, let’s talk about Core Values.


Reframing How You Think About Core Values

You might be thinking “You just said you want to get rid of fluffy words on a wall. Isn’t that what Core Values are?” No, they are not aspirational words, like “motivate” and “excellence.” Core Values are a handful of rules that remain constant, a way of being or believing, that your company has in place and lives by every day. These are not concepts that can be “trained” into an employee. They either have similar values or they don’t. It’s really that simple.

Core Values are an integral part of your company’s DNA. Here are 3 questions that will test whether you have chosen the right ones:

  • Are you hiring based on your core values?
  • Conversely, are you willing to fire someone for violating a core value?
  • Is the company willing to take a financial loss to hold true to a core value?


Prepare for a Mission to Mars

Another way to uncover what your company’s core values might be is to pretend that you’ve been asked to send team members from your company to Mars to be observed by the Martian culture. The Martians want to observe behaviors that illustrate your company’s culture. The catch? Your employee can’t communicate verbally with the Martians, it’s all dependent on his or her behaviors.

  • Who on our team would you send and why?
  • Who illustrates one or more of your core values?
  • What behaviors will the Martians associate with your company?

Do you see how the right words used to frame the company’s core values will influence the culture and the experience of employees, vendors, and customers? Core Values can make or break your mission.

So, back to those plaques and posters I referred to earlier. Instead of vague power words on posters and plaques with employee names, why not put up poster-sized pictures of your employees living out your core values? Think about how powerful that would be to other employees, to your leadership team, and to your customers. Much more powerful than a poster emblazoned with the word “Excellence.” After all, actions speak louder than words.

Does your company not have Core Values in place? Or do you need to revisit them? Contact us and a Compass Point Team member will be happy to walk you through a handy tool we use in our client engagements. There’s no better time to discover if your team’s culture is mission-ready for Mars and this new world of business.

Cheryl Doll profile picture
Cheryl Doll

Cheryl’s 20 years in higher education honed her passion for teaching, strategic planning and organizational development. Raised by entrepreneurial parents, she pivoted out of higher education to work with family business owners, providing the guidance, structure and tools required to build thriving companies and families.

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