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Excuse Me, Have You Seen My Core Values Running Down the Street?

core values leadership Jan 19, 2021

What’s going on with you?

Seriously—why haven’t you started taking action on your big goals for this year yet?

  • Still, waiting for a couple of key elements to fall into place?
  • The position of the moon not favorable for this grand venture?
  • Do you need to hire that one person who will allow you the time?

Here are three words to write down: bullshit, bullshit, and bullshit.

You say you want a lot of new, big changes to happen but there you are, stuck on the big hamster wheel of life running as fast as you can every single day...and getting nowhere.

Would you like to stop that?

Since I can’t see your face, I’m going to go out on a limb and imagine you’re nodding your head yes.

To get this journey started, you’ll need to go back to a step many forget in their quest for a budding restaurant and bar empire: you gotta know what you stand for. Oh yes, we’re talking about that main ingredient to all culture recipes: core values.

They’re Called Core Values for a Reason

When you’re building a house, the first and often most critical step is to lay the foundation. You’ll find it hard to build a massive structure on top of a weak foundation. Well, you can, just be ready for when it all comes crashing to the ground. Core values are required if you want to:

  • build your brand;
  • connect with your ideal guests;
  • attract top talent;
  • craft a marketing message that separates you from the competition; and
  • make better business decisions.

Core values are much more than a list of bullshit words you pick out to plaster on the employee billboard in their break area. Core values must be lived through the words and actions of the owners and leaders. That second part (action) is the number one challenge hurdle for many owners and managers. You see, people can sniff out insincerity rather quickly. It’s sad that hypocrisy runs rampant throughout this industry.

How to Stop the Madness

It’s time to step up and do what real leaders do: lead with integrity.

Integrity isn’t a part-time trait you can take lightly. It’s a game-changer for those who make the leap from manager to leader. When you make a total commitment to living in integrity you throw out the possibility of hypocrisy. You speak and act in congruence even when no one else is watching or notices. Integrity, at its core, is acting in accordance with your true self or identity.

The sad part is so many sell out their integrity for a paycheck or because it’s the path of least resistance. The sadder thing is how cheaply most sell their integrity! Once you’ve done it, it’ll be extremely difficult to get it back. Not saying it can’t be done but it will be a massive uphill battle.

Select Core Values You Know You Can Live

When you’re looking at words that reflect your core values, it’s a lot like going to a buffet on a cruise ship—there are so many things that look good that you try to have it all. Gluttony isn’t attractive when you’re strolling through a buffet and it isn’t effective when selecting your core values. When selecting your core values, go for quality over quantity. You want core values that resonate with your heart.


Because when it comes to things that really matter to you they come from your heart, and you’ll fight tooth and nail to protect them. Your core values must be aligned with who you are at your core! Perhaps that’s why they’re called core values…?

Fair warning: When you start writing your values down you’ll have quite a few “nice ones” that you think should be on the list. Who doesn’t like the word honesty? However, if you’re going, to be honest, can you say that you’re always honest? You might—that’s a big might—be able, to be honest with others. The deeper question is, are you honest with yourself all the time? If you’re honest when answering that question, there’s hope for you.

Verbal Values are Not Enough

Down at the foundation of living your core values is a simple yet powerful process: You must write them down! There’s just something about the process of writing things down that wires it to your subconscious. Write down the essential core values that define who you are. They must be words that live inside you. Post that list where you can see it constantly as a reminder of who you truly are. Yes, life is going to throw curveballs at you and try to pull you off track. Your core values become a compass to always return to your true self.

Don’t underestimate the power of having a list and referring to it. As I said, it’s simple and very effective. Your brain is wired to look for clues on how to exist in, interpret and navigate the world. You probably had a very clear vision of who you were and what you wanted to be when you were a kid. You wanted to drive an ice cream truck or be an astronaut, or maybe do both and drive an ice cream truck in outer space! Then some disgruntled adult told you to “be realistic,” you stopped being you, and you started to become someone else.

Can you even remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?

Uncovering your core values is the first step to getting back to the real you. They’re your moral compass leading to what’s important to you. Sadly, the vast majority of people have no clue as to what their core values are and become persuaded and manipulated easily. If you don’t know what you stand for, you’ll fall for anything that sounds convincing (to paraphrase a common saying). There’s a sucker born every minute who doesn’t stand up for what they believe in.

How to Get Some (Core Values, That Is)!

Start with a blank piece of paper (this doesn’t need to be complicated) and start writing down keywords that could make your final core values list. Most people need to get around 40 to 50 words down to start. Once you have the first draft, look over it and then think about it for a day. The following day, get a highlighter and start highlighting the worlds that have a little more punch behind them, those that resonate with your heart. You should now have a list of about 20 to 25 words.

On day three, pull the list out again and look at the highlighted words one more time. Go through the list and identify the values you just can’t live without! You should finally end up with 5 to 10 words. These are now your core values.

One of mine is the word “respect.” I can’t imagine living day to day without it in both my personal and professional lives. It also reminds me to respect myself!

Core values are a code, a promise you make to yourself about how you live your life.

Respect starts with self-respect. Love starts with self-love. Confidence starts with self-confidence.

Make a list of your core values and honor them.

Live it. Don’t compromise them. Don’t neglect them. Serve them well and they will in return serve you well. Hold your core values list close and protect it.

Otherwise, you’ll be running down the street asking for advice or directions that, if you knew your core values, would already be answered for you.

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