Striving for Excellence
Driven to Succeed
Accountable in Every Way
If you look at most companies’ websites, you’ll find core values listed somewhere; but the question is, do they live these values? At medical leverage, absolutely everything that we do, from hiring and coaching all the way through branding and service delivery, lines up with our values. Our values are our “secret sauce,” our “lighting in a bottle,” and the reason that we do what we do.
Why Do We Need Core Values in the First Place?
The movement toward companies creating and publicly communicating a set of core values is thought to have begun with the 1994 publication of Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras. In their book, the authors made a strong argument in favor of corporations developing and following a set of core values. So, that’s what many decided to do.
Ideally, core values should guide how a company operates, makes decisions, treats its internal and external stakeholders, interacts with the surrounding community, etc. When this actually happens, core values can play a significant role in the recruitment and retention of employees, vendors, and clients. And, when a company’s values align with a customer’s values, there’s a willingness on the part of the customer to pay a premium price. In a study conducted by the Bauer Leadership Center at Washington University in St. Louis and Vrity (a brand measurement company that specializes in values), findings showed the following:
- 82% of respondents would pay more for a brand that’s aligned with their values
- 43% of respondents would pay twice as much for the value-aligned brand
- 31% of respondents would purchase the value-aligned brand at any price
Having a strong set of core values can be extremely beneficial for a company and its customers. But core values need to be lived, not just listed.
The Case for “Show Me, Don’t Tell Me”
No matter how beautifully written a company’s core values might be, how many posters of them are placed in the office, or how many times they’re referred to in a sales presentation, they mean nothing if they’re not being actively and consistently implemented. Maureen Legaria, Vice President of Operations at medical leverage, was part of the team who originated our values.
“When we developed our core values, we put a great deal of thought into exactly how every single person within our organization will live and demonstrate these values,” said Maureen. “For us, it meant looking at how each of us would bring those values to life both inside of our company and externally. They have to be constantly implemented—whether you’re dealing with a coworker, a vendor, or a client. Without that consistency, the values break down—and so does trust.” In other words, when a company’s behavior doesn’t reflect the core values it claims to follow, the stated values are meaningless.
Developing Values That Stick
In a Harvard Business Review article, Patrick M. Lencioni said, “Values can set a company apart from the competition by clarifying its identity and serving as a rallying point for employees. But coming up with strong values—and sticking to them—requires real guts.” He went on to explain, “If you’re not willing to accept the pain real values incur, don’t bother going to the trouble of formulating a values statement. You’ll be better off without one.”
So, the first step in developing a set of core values is assessing whether the company is committed to embodying those values in every aspect of its business—even when that means making hard decisions and taking difficult actions. If there’s agreement around this, then the next step is determining what those values actually are.
“When working on defining our company values here at medical leverage, each leadership team member thought of one external partner who we love working with and who we would describe as being an exemplary team member,” explained Legaria. “We thought of the attributes embodied by that person. What are the qualities that make them so great to work and interact with? For example, that individual might be described as being committed, going above and beyond, or being a great communicator and listener. They might also be caring, timely, or someone who makes sure even the smallest details are executed correctly.”
Each leadership team member at medical leverage had an opportunity to explain who they had chosen and why.
“After that, we each circled the values we considered to be the most important—combining those that were similar,” explained Legaria. “Then we voted to determine which were the most important values for our organization, our employees, our vendors, and our clients. We developed a detailed explanation for each of them and they became the core values that all of us live out every single day.”
By going through this exercise, our team at medical leverage was able to develop a very specific picture of what our core values should be and would be. Such clarity is absolutely necessary—when core values are intangible or ambiguous, they’re far less likely to stick.
Putting Values to Work
In addition to applying our core values to the way we conduct business, our team at medical leverage has found another way to implement them.
“We use these values to select our team members during the recruitment process,” said Legaria. “And we also use them to help us evaluate the performance of current team members and contractors. It’s a great way to ensure that we’re holding each other accountable for living our values.”
The Key Takeaway
Having a sound set of core values can make an organization stronger in every respect—but only if these values are given the power to shape behavior, even in the toughest moments. “We knew from the beginning that we needed to express core values that we were willing to live up to every day,” said Legaria.
“That’s what we’ve done—even when it has meant making difficult decisions like severing ties with a client or choosing one job candidate over another. Living our core values is one of the main reasons our clients, employees, and vendors trust us. They know that we lead with our beliefs—that we can be counted on to do what we say we’ll do. And that means everything.”