What core values matter most?

You want your core values to motivate the actions and behaviors you intended when you opened your business. After an inspiring meeting with the team, you distill all your beliefs down to a clever acronym. 

For a few months, you revisit your core values religiously. 

Then you get busy. Distracted with the day-to-day.

You put it in the front of the employee handbook and pop a poster up on the wall. All set.

They’ve heard it all before. No need to kick a dead horse, after all. 

After a long while, something feels…off. So you pepper your team with a healthy firehose of core values chatter. That’ll do the trick. 

Back to business as usual.

I wish these guys would do as I intended. 

I can’t figure out what the problem is. We just talked about our core values not that long ago. 

There’s no way it’s been six months. It feels like it was only three Saturdays ago. Man, time flies when you’re as busy as we are. 

Probably not a big deal. 

I wonder why we aren’t seeing more leads. We were so busy not long ago. Now…nothing. Average ticket is down too. And conversions are in the crapper. Time to turn up the PPC spigot, I guess. Marketing has gotten so damn expensive.  


Simon Sinek taught us that people buy your why. When he said people, he meant your customers and your employees. 

Your “why” are all the things you believe in.

Would you take it as an affront to your intelligence if I told you that your beliefs are meaningless? Empty promises, easily replaced by the mere convenience of the situation at hand. 

For example, as a business owner, you believe you offer a premium service. It costs a lot to run a business, after all, and you charge accordingly. When people complain, you defend all the things it took to deliver your premium service. 

You believe that when it comes to buying your service, people should naturally expect to pay top dollar. Putting the shoe on the other foot, you nickel and dime your landscaper, or your auto mechanic, or that fancy restaurant, or your grocery store, or the local gas station for their outrageous prices. 

We judge others for their actions and behaviors, while we judge ourselves by our intentions. Actions are all we have to go on when interacting with others. Yet we have endless context running through our brains to justify our actions and behaviors. All skewed by our unique cocktail of biases. 

Do you see how we naturally hold two hypocritical truths in our hearts with confidence? Everything is too expensive, except my stuff. I deserve more money for my stuff, but everyone else should charge me less when I’m the buyer. 

That’s why your beliefs are meaningless. 

Do you see how that could be confusing to your employees? To your customers. 

Your values are displayed by your actions and behaviors in everyone else’s eyes. Your beliefs are irrelevant because they face no consequence. No conflict. No challenge. They are too easily interchangeable. 

You will never be faced with a difficult decision between something good and bad. Your only tough decisions are between two good things. 

Values are what you stand for…and stand against. You protect and defend your values. Your values come with consequences. When you stick to your values, sometimes it will cost you. Yet you do it anyway. Those are values. Everything else you believe are merely believable truths. 

Your values are what you value most.
You only act on what you truly value.
Same goes for your customers and employees. 


You want your core values to motivate the actions and behaviors you intended, though, right? You want your sellers to sell. You want your buyers to buy. You want your operations to deliver on your promises. 

That means you’re going to have to pick something to stand for…and stand for it. Or stand against it. 

This shows up in your business by the actions you take and the behaviors you put on display. Remember, to everyone other than you, you’re being judged by your actions and behaviors. Not your best intentions. 

Now, it’s super easy for me to arbitrarily say for you to pick a belief and stick with it. It’s always easy in the vacuum of theory. It’s considerably more difficult when challenges actually arise. The thing is, it doesn’t matter what you choose to stand for; it only matters how you act and behave when it counts.

“When a wise person realizes their belief is wrong, they change the way they act and behave. When a person is in denial, they know their belief is wrong, but choose not to change how they behave.” – Roy H. Williams

That means you’re not going to persuade everyone to believe what you believe. If you want to change someone’s actions and behaviors, you need to motivate them to change their actions and behaviors. Values show themselves by the beliefs we take action on. How we behave. 

I used to believe that you cannot change someone’s behaviors until you change their beliefs. What’s missing from Professor Francis Frei’s famous quote is what action or behavior someone will take depends solely on which belief they value the most. 

So what are the values that matter most? The values that have others see our value and take the actions and behaviors we desire. 

With employees, this means listing out all the things we believe, and then deciding what actions we will take and behaviors we will display when put to the test. These form the content for all processes, procedures, policies, and plans. These are the ingredients of your value proposition. 

With customers, this means delivering a world-class buying experience with the actions and behaviors we agree to as employees of the company we work for. If we want customers to see our value, we must be clear on what we value, and then show it in the actions and behaviors we partake in.


Your value isn’t a list of inspiring attributes. Attributes are simply a list of baseless and unfounded claims. Attributes motivate nothing. Your value is a culmination of the actions and behaviors you display. Show, don’t tell.   

Counterintuitively, when you get people to take action, their actions will influence what they value. Persuasion occurs when you are able to paint a picture in the person’s imagination. 

When they have a positive narrative of a situation and an outcome in mind, their resistance lowers. The more emotion, the stickier the belief. Taking action from where they’ve been in their mind aligns with their self-identity. Having done the thing in their imagination reinforces that they are a person who does that thing. This dominant belief becomes what they value. 


Your core values are the actions and behaviors that fulfill your vision, purpose, and mission. 

When they don’t, they will take you off track. All core values live in your modern mission statement. Helping people win in a trustworthy and grateful manner is a simple and effective way for you to encapsulate all of your core values into an actionable mission statement. 

Using these three universal truths as creative constraints, your can steer your core values into a  roadmap for each department. Now you can easily dive into each bucket and explore what you believe and value as it relates to your vision, purpose, and mission

Do this exercise with your employees and take what you learn to craft your policies, procedures, processes, and plans. This is where all your core values should live. Not on a wall.  

Only tolerate what you value. It’s easy to believe in two profound truths. It is infinitely more difficult to choose what you value and be prepared to defend it when things get hard. 

But that’s precisely why people value you.