Guideposts to Thriving Cultures

Core values serve as guideposts for decision making. Without them, we can be pulled in many different directions. Core values have to be more than nice words hung on a wall. They have to be clearly defined and every member of the organization needs to be able to define them in a way that is aligned with the organization’s intent for crafting them.



Simon Sinek says, “When the things you say and the things you do are in alignment with what you actually believe, a thriving culture emerges. Moving values off the wall and into the everyday actions of the team is the easiest and most inspiring way to build a values based organization.”


Core values lead to explaining you “why”, a key component of successful, sustainable businesses and movements (think Civil Rights). Core values allows you to better communicate expectations.


Not everyone shares core values. If we fail to explain why we want something done a particular way, the wrong guideposts for decision making occurs.


Here’s a benign example. Let’s say you value time and arrive early to meetings, expecting them to start on time. However, you have an employee who shows up late to meetings, is disruptive when arriving late, and then needs to be caught up which deters from the flow and efficiency of the meeting. Not to mention, it drives you bananas.


You could say, “You always arrive late, it’s disruptive and that behavior needs to change.” The employee would likely apologize, promise to change (and maybe makes it to the next meeting on time) but doesn’t make a lasting change because they do not share your values.


However, if you say, “Starting meetings on time and being prepared for the meetings is very important to me because it demonstrates commitment to the organization, respect for our colleagues, and it allows us to be more effective and efficient. When you arrive late, it feels disrespectful and unprofessional, disrupts the flow of the meeting, and prevents us from doing our best.” Now the employee can see clearly what is really behind the request and is more likely to make a concerted effort to change.


Taking time to define your own personal core values is a great place to start before defining (or possibly redefining) your organization’s core values.


To help you get started thinking about yours, here are my core values that drive everything I do:


  • Integrity: Walk the talk. Even when it’s hard. if I want trusting relationships, I must consistently follow through on what I commit to doing.


  • Respect diversity: Seeking out multiple perspectives and making sure no seat is empty at the table is my responsibility.


  • Inclusive community collaboration: Designing experiences takes intentionality and I truly believe good teamwork makes the dream work.


  • Vulner-agious curiosity: Curiosity poised with authenticity and vulnerability. Fear will likely be alongside me (and you) on this journey, but it will not win. Take bold action daily, be audacious.


  • Fearless listening: I must listen so well that I understand that the mirror if reflecting to me and approach every conversation with love.


  • Finding joy and celebrating successes and failures: The work of racial identity development, organizational development, and leadership development involves messiness, so I strive to celebrate when I fumble and fall in the community…as long as I get back up and keep my eyes on the mission and my heart in the values.


  • Show love, be love, and positive intent: When I choose to see others as though we could be family, I’m able to show love authentically.


  • Those who appreciate, appreciate: I grow with an attitude of gratitude.


  • Balance is everything: As the brilliant Audre Lorde said, ‘Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is selfpreservation, and that is an act of political warfare.’


It’s your turn. What are your core values? This is one of the first exercises I do when coaching clients because it is so important. If you are finding it challenging to define your core values, let’s talk!

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