Core Values Define Your Brand

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Inspire, drive, and define your brand 

by Vonnie Mikkelsen

While a clearly articulated Strategic Plan aligned with our organization’s Mission and Vision are key to stewarding the resources of our members and delivering on expectations of our community partners, our Values are our true north reminder of who we are, our collective and individual expectations. 

Culture is built on stated and lived values that are endorsed and encouraged by leadership, embraced and lived by management, employees, and volunteers. They present the highest aspirational tier of achievement in personal and professional spheres of our life, far beyond any skill, experience, or particular learned competency. They serve as guideposts for how we measure a win or mull over a miss; how we tend to an uncomfortable conversation and approach a challenging problem; how we go about our business and our interactions; how we evaluate our performance, beyond the data-driven measure. 

I firmly believe that organizations can achieve exceptional results only by creating an authentic organizational Culture through strengthening lived Values. 

We recently went through a recruitment process to fill a couple of positions on staff. Prominently listed on the whiteboard in the interview room were our Core Values: Model Excellence, Embody Innovation, Practice Stewardship, Demonstrate Integrity, and Deliver a Welcoming Experience. This was intended to gauge thoughtful response from the candidate, and encourage discussion around how they might feel about working here. 

Would they notice, perhaps inquire about them? Would they resonate in a meaningful way? Could they articulate how any one of them mattered, and connect it back to their personal or professional goals? Would it be confusing, or would they not inspire any particular thoughts at all?  Whichever the response, it would matter; for if our core values weren’t to resonate, how could we expect them to bring value and effectively contribute to broader organizational goals.

Interestingly, this exercise led to both enlightening and engaging conversations. I saw candidates relax, open up, offer candid responses, and show enthusiasm for an organization that held employees and management accountable to these values. While not the first time to apply organizational culture fit to the hiring of a candidate, it was the first time I had used stated values as an interview exercise. It turns out a commitment to organizational values is in fact a highly effective talent recruitment tool. The behavior Values inspire and the culture they drive are highly relevant to the promise of our brand and our overall performance. 

At the end of the day, without an authentic set of values, the integrity of your brand, your culture, sits on shaky ground. I know it can be a challenge for small non-profits, business owners and managers to dive deeper into brand identity, brand values, brand promise, and so on. We too are a small not-for-profit, private corporation operating at less than $750K budget, with eight full time staff, and a small leased office space. For those operating on a similar scale I can confidently lend this little bit of advice – to know, cultivate and deliver Values as part of your brand does not have to be a big investment of time or dollars. It does require thoughtful deliberation, and purposeful follow through. And it’s worth it. The ROI is in highly qualified talent committed to your brand’s promise, high customer satisfaction through delivery of your brand promise, and yet untapped dimensional layers of added brand value. 

Vonnie Mikkelsen
Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce
President & CEO

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