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    Core Values: Are You Really Who You Think You Are?

    I talk a lot about leadership behavior in this blog, but I haven’t talked much about what motivates that behavior at the core – your personal values. We have many opportunities to demonstrate our core values, especially when facing “moments of truth.”

    It’s common for companies to adopt a set of core values and even post them in their workplaces. In many cases, they look similar and are tied back to motherhood statements about integrity, trust, commitment to service and employees, etc. If you ask people if they are trustworthy or have high integrity, of course, they are going to say yes – they always do. But we all know better.

    If in fact everyone was really trustworthy, we wouldn’t see all the corruption we hear about today in organizations. The actual core values of the organization are reflective of its leadership. Companies spend an enormous amount of time wordsmithing their values to “get them right,” but the real question is do they match the individuals who lead that company?

    Strong personal core values are essential in being a sustainable leader. Think of some of the fallen leaders you’ve read about lately – for example, General Petraeus, Director of the CIA; Brian Dunn, CEO of Best Buy; or Lance Armstrong, professional athlete. Their fall from grace wasn’t because of performance, it was their violation of core values – and most commonly, a breach of trust.

    Regardless of the title, there are personal values that a leader needs to represent. So ask yourself…

    1. Would people characterize you as trustworthy?
      If trust is the highest ranked attribute of leadership, how do you validate that? For 24 years, Marco has been asking its employees to rank the level of trust of their supervisor and leadership in our annual survey. It continues to be one of the highest rated questions on the survey. We are mindful that breaches of trust are fatal. You can do good work for 24 years, but failing one “moment of truth” can take you out of the game.
    2. Do you demonstrate high integrity?
      In many cases, this goes unrecognized. It’s what CEOs are called to do every day and people trust them to do that. It usually means making decisions in the best interest of others, even though it may not be in your personal best interest. It’s what you do when you don’t think people are looking that defines your character.
    3. Are you really focused on others?
      Corporate cultures are defined by how leaders treat their employees, customers, and communities. Consistently demonstrating the consideration of others is paramount to being an effective leader. Good corporate citizens are mindful of their responsibilities beyond the bottom line; we talked about what that means in my last blog. Another way to focus on others is to make sure you give credit where credit is due. Yes, I know that is cliché, but it’s so important in relationship development.
    4. How do you look for core values in the hiring process?
      Obviously in the interview process, no one is going to intentionally describe their character flaws. So it’s our job to do our best to determine team fit. At Marco, we spend an extensive amount of time in the hiring process to uncover and truly understand a person’s core values. That typically includes a personal assessment and multiple interviews representing various functions of our company. We ask a lot of questions that directly and indirectly get to personal values. How people answer some of the simplest questions can give us a better understanding of their values. Make sure to listen carefully.
    5. How do you handle an employee that violates a core value?
      We know what happens to a leader when they violate a core value. It doesn’t matter if it’s Lance Armstrong or Brian Dunn, the general population has a low tolerance for people who violate their trust and seldom gives them a second chance. How do you handle a situation when an employee violates a core value? I start by determining if it was a one-time or repeated behavior. I also assess the severity of the situation and do leave some wiggle room for a second chance if I feel it is appropriate. But as a rule, a violation of core values is generally grounds for termination.


    Good leaders need to demonstrate good values. People are actually keeping score. So, stop for a moment and consider three values that truly describe you – in all aspects of your life. Are you really who you to want to be at the core? 

    Topics: Leadership