Culture

Remembering Core Values, or What I Learned From “Jerry Maguire”

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I’ve always found it difficult to pinpoint my core values because I believe that as humans, we are always changing and adapting to our environment.

Then, I happened to catch Jerry Maguire while flipping through television, right at the pivotal scene in which Jerry admits that he’s not happy with the state of his life or his job:

Two nights later in Miami at our corporate conference, a breakthrough. Breakdown? Breakthrough. It was the oddest, most unexpected thing. I began writing what they call a Mission Statement for my company. You know — a Mission Statement — a suggestion for the future. What started out as one page became 25. Suddenly I was my father’s son. I was remembering the simple pleasures of this job, how I ended up here out of law school, the way a stadium sounds when one of my players performs well on the field… And suddenly it was all pretty clear. The answer was fewer clients. Caring for them, caring for ourselves, and the games too. Starting our lives, really. Hey, I’ll be the first to admit it. What I was writing was somewhat ‘touchy feely.’ I didn’t care.”

Why “core” is important

It was then that I realized that I couldn’t remember my company’s mission statement. I mean, I know what my CEO expects, what our C-level executives directives are, and what my job entails, but do I really understand what drives the whole process?

Everywhere you look, the word “core” is touted as important – to have a healthy body, you must build up your core muscles. When looking for a new job, you need to find something that matches your core competencies. When considering a romantic relationship, you search for someone with the same core values. Without a strong core, everything else just seems … lacking.

So it goes without saying that if your organization’s core values drive your business objectives, then employees need to understand and align themselves with it, even if they don’t always agree with it. Otherwise, your business objectives are likely not being met.

Getting a regular focus on core values

It takes a lot of time to create core values, and for good reason. Core values are the backbone of your organization and in the hustle and bustle of everyday operations, it’s easy to lose sight of why you’re there in the first place.

A lot of companies speak vaguely about their core values and some even tastefully decorate their lobby, conference room, or cafeteria walls. All of that is great, of course, but do your employees really understand them? Better yet, do they embrace them? Do you take them to heart? Could you, right now, recite your company core values and give examples of how you achieve them on a daily basis?

When was the last time you really communicated with your employees about the company’s core values? When was the last time you asked them about how they demonstrate those values? Or do your core values seem outdated and meaningless to the work force that you have in place now?

A constant reinforcement

Just like your incentives or benefits program, you need to review your company core values from time to time. Don’t consider them written in stone, either. These should be living, breathing values that change over time, adapt as the world and your employees change, and remain meaningful and purposeful to your staff.

It pays to review your core values, and it should never be something that you dismiss. Just like you have to keep exercising to keep your body’s core healthy, you have to keep reinforcing your company’s core values to maintain a healthy and productive environment.

Most importantly, as part of your overall communications plan, you need to keep your employees informed and reminded about what your company stands for. It keeps employees connected, and makes them feel like their lives, their beliefs, and their lives matter to you as management.

Jennifer Vecchi is the Manager of Individual Incentives and Recognition Programs at Atlas Travel in Milford, MA, where she is responsible for supporting her client’s recognition programs and sales contests.