Decoding Core Values: Trust, Accountability, and Leadership

Exploring Trust, Leadership, and Professional Values Personal Development

Core values bind an organization together and define its culture. They embody the values that a company will not compromise for short-term gain or to meet market demands.

The core values of Hewlett-Packard include optimism and commitment to innovation. These are the values that Hewlett-Packard will not change, no matter what.

The Essence of Trust in Personal and Professional Life

Personal core values define what you deem most important in life and help create a purposeful existence. Those values can be incredibly broad, such as “be honest,” or more specific, like, “always strive to do the right thing.”

When it comes to business, company core values are the guiding principles that underpin the culture of an organization. They help to align employees and provide clarity on what is and is not acceptable behavior within the workplace. They can also serve as the cornerstones of a company’s brand, helping it to differentiate itself from the competition.

While some core values are aspirational, others are more concrete and rooted in a company’s heritage or the beliefs of its founders. In any case, core values should be deeply ingrained in a company’s culture to be truly effective and meaningful.

If a company has values that are only superficially emblazoned on a wall or in a handbook, those values will not hold up over time, especially when facing challenges or change. Having the courage to stand behind core values is key, and it can only be accomplished through great internal communication that includes transparent conversations.

The way a company communicates its core values is a reflection of how it treats its employees and customers. Leaders who demonstrate a strong commitment to their company’s values and the importance of a high level of trust are able to inspire their teams, even in the face of difficult times.

Creating a powerful and memorable core value statement is a complex task. It is essential to find the right balance between brevity and specificity, and to avoid repeating words or using sanitized corporate buzzwords.

Accountability: Taking Responsibility in Action

Accountability is a core leadership trait that requires commitment to the business and people. It’s the ability to take ownership of decisions and actions, share credit where it is due, and admit mistakes—all while encouraging others to be responsible for their own work. This type of accountability is crucial for leaders to build trust with their teams and encourage open communication.

It’s important to clarify expectations with team members so everyone is on the same page regarding goals and deadlines. This can be done through regular check-in conversations where the leader walks through what worked and what didn’t, and provides an opportunity to discuss ways to improve.

Another way to foster a culture of accountability is to encourage team members to be more vocal about challenges or obstacles they face. When team members are empowered to voice concerns, they can take steps to solve problems and ensure that deliverables are completed on time. It’s also vital for team members to be able to speak up when they see someone else not taking responsibility or avoiding blame.

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Ultimately, the best way to promote a culture of accountability is to lead by example. This means clearly communicating objectives, demonstrating positive behavior, encouraging teamwork, and building a supportive environment for continuous improvement. A leader who is willing to accept responsibility for their actions sets an excellent example for their team, which in turn leads to a more cohesive and productive workplace. If a member of the team isn’t meeting standards, it is the leader’s job to enforce disciplinary action—and this should be consistent and clear from the beginning. The goal is to create a culture where every person values their contribution, takes responsibility for their work, and prioritizes the success of the team over their own personal interests.

Defining Professionalism in the Modern Workplace

Defining professionalism is not only beneficial for employees but can be a powerful force for companies, especially when the values are clear and consistent. Incorporating core values into business processes — such as hiring methods, performance management systems, criteria for rewards and promotions, or dismissal policies — can help solidify the importance of those values in everyone’s everyday work life.

Similarly, in relationships, certain values are essential to a healthy, long-lasting relationship. In fact, scientific research has shown that happy relationships are based on similar values. So, identifying and communicating core values is important for both personal and professional development, whether it’s with your significant other, your boss, or the coworkers you work with daily.

Organizational core values are a company’s guiding principles: ‘cultural cornerstones,’ if you will. They are the foundation of a company’s culture, and can influence how a business conducts business with customers, partners, and stakeholders. They can also shape how a company deals with difficult, unpopular decisions, and serve as a source of inspiration to its people.

Unlike personal core values, organizational ones aren’t always easily identified. Words like “community,” “respect,” and “integrity” can sound great, but unless they have meaning and context, they could be anything from the uplifting motto of a high-profile tech company to the values of a collapsed energy company. To be meaningful, corporate core values must be extractable from the heart of a company’s community and serve as a compass that guides its every action and decision. This requires a steady cadence of communication that reinforces the value and relevance of those principles to everyone in the organization. It can be challenging to define core values that speak to everyone, but it is critical for a successful and fulfilling business.

Leadership Defined: More Than Just Influence

Leadership has been defined by many different people in a variety of ways. Some have argued that leadership is an attribute tied to one’s title or seniority in a hierarchy, while others have noted that leadership is a skill that can be learned and improved. No matter how you define it, the most important part of leadership is getting other people to work with you towards a common goal.

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Those who are good leaders know how to inspire and motivate their followers. They understand the value of hard work and are committed to building relationships. They are optimistic and passionate about their work and share these values with the teams they lead. They encourage their team members to be creative and to think outside the box, so that they can achieve their goals and deliver a quality product for their customers.

They also understand that leadership is more than just influence. They are able to get other people to put sweat equity into the task at hand, which can be difficult in today’s hyper-connected world. This new definition of leadership is often described as servant-leadership, and it is a powerful idea. Leaders who serve their followers are able to make their lives easier, both physically and cognitively. This type of leadership has been shown to improve team performance and satisfaction.

Core values can unite teams and create a culture of momentum and professional kinship. They can help to reduce turnover rates, which is a huge benefit for any business. Watch this webinar to learn more about defining your company’s beliefs and the tools you need to implement them into your business environment. This webinar is led by Joseph Grenny, coauthor of Crucial Influence and founder of Crucial Learning.

The Power of Initiative and Making Amends

While whiteboard sessions and surveys can help companies develop a list of core values, it’s the everyday application of these values that makes them meaningful. To succeed, a company’s values must be integrated into every employee-related process–hiring methods, performance management systems, criteria for promotions and rewards, and even dismissal policies.

Core values must be specific enough to provide a guide for employee behaviors, but they should also be broad and aspirational. Values that are too vague, such as “change the world,” don’t have the strength to stand up to the pressure of daily operations. Similarly, values that are too narrow, such as “innovate courageously,” are too easily overlooked by employees.

It’s also important to avoid blandly nice ideals. Motherhood-and-apple-pie statements such as “integrity, communication, and respect” may sound good, but they’re not distinctive enough to set a company apart from competitors. In addition, cookie-cutter values can make an organization appear out of touch with its customers and the workplace community that makes it unique.

Finally, a company must commit to making amends when it goes wrong. If it does, its values will resonate far more loudly than any empty pronouncements of principle. Making amends can take the form of direct or indirect action. A direct amend might be meeting with someone you wronged face-to-face, apologizing and asking how you can repair the damage caused. An indirect amend might be donating to a charity or writing a thank-you note. However it is done, the point is to regain trust and create a sense of professional kinship within a community. This is the mark of true and lasting values.

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