Jay Rifenbary

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Core Values for Homework

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One of my major themes within the No Excuse! training program is the establishment and implementation of a set of core values within an organization. These core values should reflect the leadership’s fundamental approach towards how business is conducted and how clients view the organization. Core values provide the parameters of behavior to hold ourselves and others accountable, and a more complete evaluation of performance and decisions being made. It is also imperative that these core values be defined for the employees, and the entire gamut of the work force. The primary reason for defining what we mean by what we say is as human beings we define words we hear, not only by what the dictionary may state, but also based on our life experience with that word. I can say the word “integrity” and everyone may have a variation of what the word means based on their life experience with it. For example, I have younger people in my workshop sessions when asked the question, “What does the word “integrity” mean?” with the response of “I have no idea.” A reason why it might be important to define for people what we mean by what we say?

During the course of my travels and training I have encountered organizations with a firm set of core values that are reflective in the leadership and the employee base. However, it is extremely important for the leadership to constantly review, remind the entire team, and consistently define what those values are, and will continue to be. The resulting benefit is enhanced trust and accountability, leading to better communication; and extending to better efficiency, productivity and eventually greater profitability.

Here is the “homework” twist to what has been shared previously. I also conduct seminar-training sessions for small groups of CEO’s and senior leadership across the country. In the course of discussing core values, I always enjoy seeing the visual response of senior leadership when I ask them, “Have you ever sat down at the dinner table and asked your children and family, what do you think the core values of our family might be?” Many times it is like observing deer in headlights. There is always a brief hesitation and pondering that occurs when asked that question. We can establish core values for our organization but we do not take the time to establish core values for our family? Most of the time we assume the children know, but in reality, the assumption is incomplete. It must be brought to the surface, and the values discussed, to solidify a foundation of understanding. Of course this does not only apply to senior leadership, but everyone reading this column.

The wonderment of this “core value” homework assignment is when a child opens their mouth with a response, let’s say, “Honesty should be one of our core values”, the child has to then take ownership for what they just said which allows you as a parent to hold them what? “Accountable” It works! We established four in our family, and they are as follows, “always be honest”, always do the best you can”, “treat people with respect” and “when you start something you do not quit midstream” i.e. you join a team you see it through to the end of the season. You do not quit just because you do not like it. That is called commitment to your teammates, and taking accountability for the decision you made. At times, would my children fight these values growing up? Absolutely, but now that they are grown I have noticed that these core values have provided a basis for their sense of self respect and confidence; as they tackle the difficulties of life, and having to make decisions they must take ownership for.

Peer pressure in our schools continues to be a formidable force in influencing the direction our children take with their lives. Why is that? The reason is, you have adults who do not have any idea what they stand for and believe in, have no consistent core values of their own. So, if I as a parent do not know what I stand for and believe in, how could I expect my children to have any idea what they should stand for and believe in. As a result, there are no parameters of behavior established, the children go to school, allow their friends to dictate how they should behave, so as to artificially enhance their self-esteem.

Take the time tonight, or as soon as may be convenient, to sit down with those young ones, and not so young ones, and ask them, “What are the core values of our family?”. It will pay huge parenting dividends down the road, because it will provide those parameters of behavior, and a structure to build the childrens’ sense of self-respect.



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