How to Write Inspiring Core Values

If you’re wondering how to write inspiring core values, it’s best to start with the following question:

What are the central beliefs that guide your actions?

That’s a big question. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it hard work? Equality? Creativity? Kindness? Given the scope of this question, most companies present a list of five to ten core values. It’s not just one guiding principle that’s going to drive their ship. That’s more in line with a mission statement. Rather, core values are a small handful of key beliefs.

What you choose as your company core values is going to shape your company’s actions, unite your employees, and ultimately define your brand. Let’s talk about how to write core values in a manner that will effectively shape your future.

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Examples of Core Values

Have you ever shopped at The Container Store? They have seven “foundation principles,” which functionally serve as their core values. They are:

  1. 1 Great Person = 3 Good People
  2. Communication IS leadership
  3. Fill the other guy’s basket to the brim. Making money then becomes an easy proposition.
  4. The Best Selection, Service & Price
  5. Intuition does not come to an unprepared mind. You need to train before it happens.
  6. Man in the Desert Selling
  7. Air of Excitement!

That’s pretty great, right? They cover hard-working employees, communication, teamwork, a focus on others, smart pricing, intuition, and excitement. Whew! That’s a heavy courseload. But, in the eyes of the founders, they believed each core value would tie into the next and create a well-oiled machine. Sure enough, they were right.

If you’re looking for more, here are several more examples of core values.

Steps for Writing Core Values

Now that you can define core values, let’s take a stab at your own. By following the steps below, you’ll be able to highlight the philosophies that matter most and sail your ship into seas of success.

1. Ask Yourself What’s Important

Do what they call a brain dump. Ask yourself what’s important. Is it flexibility at work? Is it about creative, new ideas no one’s thought about before? Is it an air of excitement, like the folks over at The Container Store?

As the ideas start to pour out of your mind, write each concept on a separate index card. Don’t worry if you have ten or thirty ideas. Don’t censor anything you’re thinking at this stage. Just write. Write freely and envision the company of your wildest dreams.

2. Spread Out Your Cards

Now, it’s time to spread out your index cards and take a good hard look at your brain on the table. Start organizing them according to category. You’ll start to see some patterns emerging.

Do communication or teamwork keep popping up in one form or another? Do issues pertaining to work/life balance keep repeating themselves? Take note of these repeats. They’re about to make their way onto your website as inspiring core values.

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3. Rank Your Thoughts

Once you’ve organized a vast range of ideas into, say, five categories, start ranking them within each category. Remember, core values are intended to be far-reaching.

So, if you have a very specific idea, such as “half-day Fridays,” that won’t become a core value on its own. Rather, it’ll drop into the work/life balance category.

4. Select Your Top Three

Three is a good benchmark for the number of core values. Some companies have five; some have seven. But, remember, you’re going to expect each member of your team to adhere to your core values, so you don’t want to overdo it.

Once you select three principles as your roadmap to success, then get ready to frame them on the company site and share them with every new hire. You can also combine similar ideas together within each category, but remember to keep them as succinct as possible.

5. Get Creative with Your Verbiage

Did you notice that The Container Store’s core values were not only enlivening, they were fresh. “Fill the other guy’s basket” is pretty spectacular. So, let’s continue with work/life balance as a core value. See if you can frame that in a creative light.

Perhaps you’ll consider something along the lines of, “Work to live, not live to work.” Do you have any content creators on your team? Perhaps you can pitch them some of your ideas and allow them to get snappy with your valued philosophies. You'll also notice that, in the case of the Container Store, core values can be a few choice words or even a couple of sentences. Feel free to be creative too!

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Everlasting Core Values

Once you feel pretty confident about your values, it’s time to post them. Share them on your “About Us” page on your website. Include them in your new hire packets. Don’t just list them off, file them away, and never look at them again. That’s what people with stale core values do.

Yours came from the heart and received a fresh, new start thanks to some spiffy content creator. Live by them. See them everywhere - not just on hanging on office walls, but in your employees’ actions. For more on the comrade to core values, here’s everything you need to know to write a stellar mission statement.