Many of us have core values at our organizations. These values provide a common nomenclature and a North Star that guide our choices, our language and our priorities—at work. It’s these values that let us know we are working toward a shared mission—at work. These core values are our non-negotiables, the things we won’t compromise on—at work.
And, truth be told, core values are amazing. They are one of the first things we walk clients through in our brand storytelling process because everything emanates from them.
So, if core values are so great at work, then why don’t we have them at home? I wish I had been “woke” enough to see this myself, but I didn’t see the light until I heard Warren Rustand speak on this topic at the EO Entrepreneurial Masters Program (EMP). After hearing Warren speak, I rushed home and announced we were going to have family core values!
You can imagine the groans and eye-rolls from my wife and three kids. “Great, dad. You just went to an EO event, got all fired up and now you have a new idea to test on us!” was the response. I couldn’t blame them for their initial reaction, but I convinced them to give it a try.
We started by listing all the people we admire in our lives, whether they were friends, grandparents or celebrities. Then we asked “why”? “Why do we admire them? What qualities do they possess that we admire? If we were building a family out of people we knew, who would we want there?”
Marc was an EO Accelerator participant before becoming an EO member in 2013. He says, “I love everything EO stands for. Being an EO Accelerator participant was a transformational experience and I’m looking forward to becoming even more involved now that I’m a member.”
Once this was complete, I summarized the qualities and we started to combine them, culling down the list. When we arrived at five distinct ideas, I did some wordsmithing and came up with these:
- Think big. No limits
- Family first
- Own it
I put some examples and defining behaviors next to these and returned to the dinner table to review with the family. Everyone agreed that these ideas reflected what we had come up with. That was the easy and fun part!
The hard part is living them. Working them into your everyday nomenclature and conversation.
My wife, Lindsey, and I often start dinner by playing a game called “roses and thorns.” This is where each member of the family goes around and says something that was great (a rose) about their day and has the chance to voice anything that wasn’t so great (thorns)—one rule is you can’t mention a family member that gave you a thorn! At least once a week we’ll announce that this round also includes a “bud,” which is an example of how you displayed family core values or any example of family core values.
We also go out of our way to let the kids know if they aren’t upholding the family core values. “Own it” is all about owning when you’ve done something wrong or right. And it’s our way of making sure everyone takes responsibility.
Sometimes, having family core values can force you to face some harsh truths. One night after dinner, there was talk of a school event for my middle child, Charlie. Caught up in my entrepreneurial ways, I mentioned that I was not attending because I had work. Instantly my daughter Ruby, our youngest, piped up and said, “Family first, dad!” That stopped me in my tracks. She was right. That is one of our core values—a non-negotiable, our guiding north star and how we want to build this family for the future. I thanked her for the reminder and let her know this is exactly why we have family core values, to keep us on track. Even when we happen to get off track.
In addition to being the guideposts that help us to shape the life we’ve envisioned, the core values have been a great way to create a common language with the kids. It allows us to have tough conversations through a lens that we all understand, through values we all agree are important. Plus, since there are only five, they are easy to remember and manage.
This exercise has been an impactful way for us to talk about values with our kids as well as have honest conversations about their values and where they are going in the world. I can’t wait to see what that future looks like!
Marc Gutman is the founder of WILDSTORY, a brand strategy and content studio that believes building powerful conversations that change the way people feel about your brand leads to long-term brand loyalty and drives purchases. The WILDSTORY process is based on storytelling—telling the story of your customer and how your products and services make them the heroes of their own lives.