In my one-on-one strategy work with numerous CEOs, our first order of business is to always revisit the core values, mission, and vision. These three identity elements define what a company believes, stands for & values more than profits, where the company is going, and why the company exists.

Without clarity around these three elements, the company will struggle, it will remain in a consistent reactive state, and its employees will lack clarity on its purpose and direction.

Setting them, however, is only half of the equation. Where so many companies fail in this initiative are in the rollout, and in the consistent reinforcement of the values every day.

Once we set or reset the values, mission, and vision, we create a plan to roll them out through an interactive custom training session, and we identify how to integrate them into the company's operations.

Here are 9 specific ways CEOs and their leadership teams can integrate core values into the everyday fabric of their businesses.

  1. Live and lead by example. Leaders are always being watched. Setting core values, and then failing to abide by them, is worse than not establishing core values at all.

    A solid core values system is especially important in difficult times. It's rather easy to adhere to established desired behaviors when things are going well. When a company hits a bump in the road however, is when it's most important to stand by what you believe at your core.

  2. Teach the values through orientation/training. It's unrealistic to simply send out an email or a document listing core values, or engrave them on coasters, and think that everyone will adapt them. Formal training communicates that the values matter.

    One of my advisors was COO of a $1.2 billion company. He was instrumental in growing it from $4 million to a billion. He personally led a 4-hour training program on core values for all new employees, prioritizing the training ahead of HR training.

    The training conveys the company's commitment, and also dedicates the time needed to explain how the values originated and what their significance is to the company.

  3. Reinforce the values in all communication, including all-hands meetings, newsletters, etc. For many of my client organizations, we have revamped the all-hands meetings formats, and we've launched internal newsletters. Every employee touchpoint should reinforce the values.
  4. Recognize and reward values-centric behaviors. There are many ways to recognize and reward values-centric behaviors, including spot-bonuses, peer-voting opportunities that give employees the opportunity to nominate co-workers for successfully living the values, and written recognition in newsletters or on the website.
  5. Incorporate the values into your sales process. As I've worked with clients to revamp their proposal process and documents, we've integrated the core values into the proposal messaging. This goes beyond simply listing the values in an opening paragraph. The language highlights how the core values shape the customer experience.
  6. Incorporate the values into your hiring process. Selecting candidates that culturally align with your organization is just as important as finding candidates that match your required experience level and skill set.

    In addition to re-writing the position descriptions used to attract candidates, my role in interviewing & vetting and candidates for my client's organizations focuses solely on the cultural fit. I run candidates through a rigorous questioning process to identify who can truly move their companies to the next level and will likely be around for the long term.

  7. Incorporate the values into your performance review process. Once you've hired employees that align with your core values, and you've trained them on how they can live the values, you are ready to integrate the core values into the performance review process. The performance review process is where you inspect what you expect.
  8. Terminate people who violate the core values. Firing employees is always one of the worst aspects of business ownership. However, when an employee consistently engages in behavior that contradicts the desired and required behaviors of an organization, this impacts their personal performance as well as the performance of the company.

    Every employee represents the brand. Every employee is accountable to the values, mission, and vision of the organization as they represent the company.

  9. Ensure alignment between internal and external messaging. Finally, companies must ensure alignment between internal and external messaging. How are employees communicating the brand and company attributes? Does the company messaging in marketing materials, on the website, in Linked In profiles, etc. accurately reflect the internal messages around the values?

Values lose their credibility when leadership talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk, and when they lose sight of what the values mean to both the employee and customer experience. Leaders can avoid this outcome by remaining committed and intentional to building a values-centric culture.