January 2023

When Core Values Stand Alone

by Erin Yeagley

Most likely, your organization has identified a collection of "Core Values." They are probably listed on your website and/or displayed in the lobby of your building to communicate to your clients, potential clients, and employees what you stand for and value. Perhaps they are posted in your office, or in the employee breakroom, and your team can readily recite them one by one in rapid fire. But what happens when those values simply stand alone? How do they fit into the everyday functions of the team and their duties?

Ed Ruggero, co-author of The Leader's Compass, shares this thought-provoking Core Values Alignment story:

At their morning huddle, the staff at The Hotel Magnificent is reminded of their mission to clean the lobby breakfast area as soon as the meal is over at 10:30 AM because a clean eating area is important to guests.

When some guests sit down to breakfast at 10:20, the staff becomes a little anxious; they have a lot more work to do besides just the breakfast area, and they don't want to fall behind. When the guests pull out their laptops and begin working, it looks like they plan on using the breakfast area as an office. Since this is an unexpected development, the staff falls back on the mission, which had just been emphasized that morning: clean the dining area. They drop a few hints, mopping around the feet of the still-eating guests, but when that doesn't clear the area, they simply ask the late-risers to leave.

Across town at Hotel Benjamin, the morning huddle starts—as it always does—with a brief discussion of one of the organization's values. This morning it's "Exceed Guest Expectations."

"I think of it like this," one of the front desk clerks says. "If I were in the guest's shoes, what would surprise me? You know, make me tell somebody, ‘You'll never guess what happened to me at this hotel.' Sometimes you gotta use your imagination, but that makes it fun."

At eleven AM—time to clean the breakfast area—the housekeeping staff finds three people sitting at a dirty table, their laptops open, deep in prep for a business meeting. The housekeepers' mission is the same at The Magnificent Hotel: clean the breakfast area. But that morning's discussion of values has reminded them that they were supposed to act according to the team's values.

One housekeeper gets the key to a small conference room while another offers to escort the guests to a quieter, cleaner place to work. Once the guests are settled, she brings them coffee (which is offered for free in the lobby) and a pitcher of ice water.

Both had the same mission, and both completed the mission but who was more successful in the delivery of the mission? Which hotel would you book the next time you were in town?

Does your organization regularly discuss its Core Values in association with their everyday activities? Does your team understand specific behaviors that support each value? Sometimes it is easy to lose alignment and miss the big picture when you are solely focused on completing the mission at hand. Value alignment is an important and foundational element for any organization's success.

To learn more about Core Values and their role in world class leadership, please download our free whitepaper — The 5 Elements of Word-Class Leadership — How to Achieve Focus and Alignment for Greater Organizational Success .