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Building a Solid Foundation

5 Steps to Establishing Core Values

May 23, 2023
Lead Organizations
Nathaniel Gaydosik

Establishing core values for yourself, your family, your team, or your organization is essential for long-term success. Core values serve as a compass for decision-making. They provide a foundation for building a positive culture and relationships, and on a team, help attract and retain top talent. They also reflect your identity and set you apart from others in the industry.

Our values remind us of who we are and who we want to be.

Core values are a set of guiding principles that define an individual’s or organization’s culture, beliefs, and behaviors. They are the fundamental beliefs that guide our decisions and actions.

Core values are not just words on a page; they are the heart and soul of the one who holds them. Core values extend beyond our daily activities. They act as a compass, helping us make important decisions and keeping us focused on our desired future, even during tough times.

It is important to differentiate between core values and mission statements. A mission statement is a brief statement that defines someone’s purpose, goals, and overall strategy.

A mission statement outlines what an organization or an individual does. Core values, however, state what they believe in and how they will achieve their mission. These values form their identity and serve as a guide for making decisions.


Organization A’s Mission: To coach others as they grow into the best versions of themselves.

Organization A’s Values: Compassion, Patience, Discipline

Two organizations may share the same mission. However, their values will affect the way they work toward that mission. Different values will create different approaches to achieving the same goal.

Organization B’s Mission: To coach others as they grow into the best versions of themselves.

Organization B’s Values: Challenge, Action, Responsibility

Differing values would impact both client and teammate culture fit. 

5 Steps for Establishing Core Values


1. Assess Current Values

The first step in establishing core values is to assess the organization’s current values. Whether they are stated or not, the organization is operating by a set of values.

One of my mentors, Larry Cox, former LifeShape President and Founder of Cox Nichols, LLC, often says, “If you say you don’t have any values, that’s your first value: We don’t have any values.” Assessing them involves evaluating the organization’s mission, vision, and any existing values.

If establishing values is new, take a good look at repeated behaviors and what seems to guide decision-making. Leaders should ask themselves if the current values appropriately align with their mission and vision.


2. Brainstorm with Input 

The next step is to compile a list of potential core values. Involve key stakeholders and seek input from teammates or employees at all levels of the organization or team. Leaders should encourage open and honest communication to gain insights into what others believe are their core values.

Once you have brainstormed a list of values the leadership believes they have, try this interesting exercise. Ask team members to list the top 5 values they see in the team, organization, or family. The results may surprise you, but they can help you know where you are on or off track.   


3. Craft Your Short List 

Once input has been gathered, it’s time to brainstorm your list of core values. For maximum retention and clarity, we have found it’s best not to go beyond five core values. Two is too few, and over eight is overwhelming. It’s important to keep the list short and prioritize the values that are most important to you and/or the organization.

Leaders should consider what sets them apart from others and what values will guide them in achieving their mission and vision. Identify your teammates who enjoy wordsmithing and diving into a thesaurus to find just the right language. They will passionately tackle the hard work of clarifying and condensing — often combining multiple values that are synonymous, or adding nuance that is important to communicating the DNA of the organization or team.


4. Dream and Aspire 

In addition to considering the organization’s current values, it’s important to include dreams and aspirations in the core values. These aspirations should be challenging but attainable and should guide growth and development.

How do you want to be known 10-20 years in the future by your customers, competitors, and colleagues? Innovative or Antiquated? Compassionate or Corporately Greedy? These values are important because they inspire us to more, even when they are clearly present.


5. Embody the Values

The final step is to communicate your core values to others and integrate them into your everyday language. At WinShape Teams, we refer to our values regularly. We even have peer-nominated award systems where we acknowledge team members living out our values. Create a plan to incorporate your core values into your hiring process, your performance evaluations, and your decision-making.

Tip: This works at home just as well! For example, kids cleaning their room upholds the family’s value of teamwork.

It could be as simple as asking during every meeting or project, “How does this honor our values?” If you take pride in your values, make sure they are visible throughout the organization. For example – On the company website, in the office, and in employee communications. Remember, it’s more important for the values to be seen in the leaders and teammates than on the wall.    


Establishing core values is essential for success.

It creates clarity and ensures that individuals or organizations are operating with the heart and soul they desire. Core values serve as a compass for decision-making. They provide a foundation for building a positive culture and help attract and retain top talent.

By following the five steps outlined in this blog post, leaders can establish core values that align with their mission and vision and use those values to guide their team toward long-term success.

Take the first step toward building a sense of shared purpose by booking a Retreat for your team!

Whether at our campus or in your neck of the woods, our retreats are designed to elevate and advance teams and leaders. We provide enriching experiences that result in a stronger, healthier culture and coworkers unified around a common purpose.