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9 Steps to Define Your Core Values

This newsletter will explore my method of defining Core Values for a business owner.

How To Define Core Values - Download (1)
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Listen to the accompanying Podcast with expanded content (also found on your favorite Podcast host).

If you have a negative company culture, struggle with employee turnover or low productivity, you probably have a misalignment of Core Values.

Defining Core Values for a company is important, but the baseline for Company Values MUST start with the owner of the company.

Only if your Core Values are clearly understood, will you then have a solid foundation for defining your Company's Core Values.

Defining, communicating, and aligning your company with your Core Values has some interesting side effects: Warning you might:

  • Actually discover “who you are.”

  • Understand the cause of disagreements within your business

  • Start hiring team members who align with your Values

  • Have a positive increase in company culture

  • Start attracting clients you love

  • See an increase in productivity

  • Increase your Net Income

Unfortunately, most business owners don’t take the time to define their Core Values because:

They don’t understand the impacts it will have on their business

  • They don’t fundamentally understand what Core Values are

  • They are unsure of what others will think of them

  • They don’t want to look in the mirror

  • They don’t know how to go about defining them

If you take the time to go through this exercise, then I promise you will start seeing and understanding situations differently. Common phrases include “Now I understand why we had a disagreement here” or “It makes sense why that person left the company.”

Here's how to discover your Core Values, step by step:

Step 1: Write down a list of values words

Writing down words that come to mind is so important because this process will open up the creative thought process.

Don’t worry about trying to find the “right” values or pre-judge the definition of the word; we will get to that later.

Write down everything and anything that comes to mind.

Step 2: Write the definition of each word

Use the cheat sheet to get started. Then add new words to the list as they come to mind; you might surprise yourself with what resonates with you.

  • Downloadable cheat sheet at the bottom of post👇

Step 3: Circle the Top 20

At first, a massive list of values may seem daunting, but don’t despair; start to pair it down.

Circle all the values words that resonate with you; don’t be too picky during this step.

Once you have them all circled, cross out the words you feel are a weak representation of your true self - think about this for some time.

Step 4: Define “why” each resonates with you

Eliminate words until you have 20 value words, then write down why that word jumped out, how does it make you feel, and what is the underlying reason you chose that word.

Don’t go too deep in this step, just initial thoughts

Step 5: Find the Synonyms and Antonyms

Many people fall short by stopping at step #2 by selecting “values” based on a surface-level understanding of words.

We all want to make quick progress, and often times we shortcut the hard work needed to dig deeper into the fabric of our being.

We still need to dig deeper to avoid shallowness in our core values - let’s keep going.

Now, research synonyms and antonyms of your top 20 words.

Consider each word closely. Does it mean what you initially thought? Does the word still resonate with you?

  • Yes? Keep it on your list

  • No? Eliminate it and find a new core word

Repeat steps 1-3 until you have a solid list of 20

We are halfway done!

Step 6: Group your Top 20 words by themes

Look at your list and identify any themes among the words; group them together.

Some people will pick words that are basically the same, but we want to do better. If there are too many similar words, pick one out of the theme and repeat this process until you cut the list down to 10 “Themes” represented by one word per theme.

It will be worth it in the long run.

Step 7: Prove it

Our Core Values show up everywhere in our daily lives, even when we aren’t trying. Three places they will show up most often are where we invest our energy, time, and money.

  • Time - Pull out your calendar; where do you spend most of your time? We do more of the things that align with our values. Do you enjoy that time spent?

  • Energy - Think about your daily activities; where do you spend most of your energy? What activities leave you feeling energized? What activities drain you?

  • Money - Where do you spend your money? What do you buy (other than basic necessities?) What do those things represent for you? How do they make you feel?

After you have pondered for a while, write down specific examples of how your Top 10 have shown up in your investment of energy, time, and money.

If you are struggling to remember specific examples, consider if the themed word is a core value.

Step 8: What are your Top 3 to 5?

You are finally at the finish line.

Pick the top 3 to 5.

These reveal your Core Values.

Step 9: Bonus Step - Ask trusted advisors to evaluate your values

If you are feeling really ambitious, give your Top 5 to a trusted friend, colleague, or family member and ask them if those words describe you. Be open to honest feedback.


Now that you have defined your own Core Values, you can go to your team with the foundation for building values for your company… but that is a lesson for another day.

- Cheers, Greg

P.S. I would love to hear your Core Values - DM me on LinkedIn and let me know! @gregarchercfo

P.P.S. If you aren’t happy with what you discovered, you can always change your core values by intentionally changing your behavior. We become what we think and how we act.

Do you need help understanding the numbers in your business and the "why" behind them?

How To Define Core Values - Download (1)
Download PDF • 323KB


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