Are You Living Your Core Values?
Updated: Mar 28
Core values are central to who we are. They are part of an internal system that guides life and career decisions. Depending on the situation, they vary in priority, so we can stack our values differently depending on the circumstances. For example, when someone feels safe, they may be willing to express divergent views, or they might be inclined to build work relationships. When psychological safety is compromised, they are more likely to hide their true thoughts because of the potential consequences.
Core values tend to be less moveable than non-core values, and non-core values can be sacrificed depending on what’s necessary in the moment. An example of this is, you can have someone with a value system that causes them to avoid using profanity. However, in select situations, this same person, may decide to ignore this value to send a very clear message.
Everyone has a unique mix of core values because even though they may share the same value on the surface, how they interpret, integrate and execute that value can vary dramatically.
How good we are at living our core values is determined by our courage and intrinsic motivation. Internally motivated people make decisions that are aligned with their values, refusing to compromise with external pressures because they regard these core values as being central to who they are. In fact, they are willing to make social and other sacrifices to remain aligned with these values.
Extrinsically motivated people sometimes choose to sacrifice their core values. This can happen when they perceive a threat that they would rather not confront or when they perceive a benefit or opportunity that helps them meet their goals.
Core values operate within a wider system of values. Depending on the circumstances, one value may influence the decision more than others. This means prioritization happens. Just to quickly to illustrate the shifting priority of values: I have met people who uphold core values like honesty, integrity, and transparency when they are safe, who may not be as transparent in situations where they feel threatened. Instead, some of them make neutral or inaccurate statements or they don’t say anything at all, choosing their battles carefully and sometimes fearfully.
Living your core values is a daily commitment that has inherent costs and benefits for both you and the people around you. Because building team core values is an inside out process, living your core values is the first step toward aligning with team core values.
Many organizations hire based on technical capabilities and cultural fit. While psychometrics can point to alignment of potential employees’ behaviours with the behaviours preferred by the hiring organization, they don’t usually identify the deeper core values that drive behaviours. What this means is you can end up bringing people together who are not a great fit for the team. To address this, a long-term developmental strategy coupled with people and structural changes can support organizations with building teams with aligned core values both individually and as a team.
It takes insight to identify opportunities to detect misaligned personal and team values, foresight to understand if you are on the wrong team, and stamina to do the challenging work that can safeguard the team’s core values.
With knowledge gained from over 30 years of Fortune 500 and international consulting experience, Yvette shares her rich experience and proprietary model for changing businesses from the inside out. She is a thought leader in the areas of trust, leadership and organizational ecosystems, an award winning author and cultural consultant. Sign up for our newsletter at www.orgsoul.com. to keep up-to-date with our new podcast episodes and blog posts (Scroll down to the newsletter sign-up section on the home page) You can also access free resources there. Check out the IFB Academy for courses based on our thought leadership in the areas of trust, culture, and leadership at https://organizationalsoul.learnworlds.com.