When It’s Okay to Punt a Core Value

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Take out a copy of your team’s core values. You know the one I mean. It’s either filed away in a folder called “Documents”, or perhaps it’s in that binder labeled “2007 Off-site Retreat”. It’s possible that it’s framed and posted on the wall in your staff coffee room.

I’ll give you a minute while you go get it.

Read each value statement carefully. You probably have between 8 and 12 of them. They likely are peppered with phrases like “relentlessly focused on” and “wholly committed to”. Powerful stuff, eh?

The one I want you to zero in on is that one that jumps off the page, because quite frankly it just doesn’t fit. If the last time you did a review of your core values was more than two years ago, then in all probability there is at least one that simply doesn’t resonate with your present team.

You have three options:

1. You can re-cast vision around that value, “blow-torching it” until it once again is being lived out among your team, or

2. You can take out the white-out and simply eliminate the value, or

3. You can ignore the discrepancy and re-file the core values document back where you found it.

deleteI’m going to build a case for option #2; that sometimes the best option is have the courage to hit “delete”. This sounds like leadership heresy, but hear me out.

Teams change. And sometimes along with those changes new values emerge and old ones become out-dated.

Recently our team did a review of our core values and discovered one that was clearly a reflection of a different time in the history of the organization. After trying desperately to make this value “fit”, we finally had to look at each other and admit, “This value simply no longer reflects who we are.”

Don’t take the idea of deleting a core value lightly. This is a big deal. But be open to the possibility that a value once held in high regard by a previous team may simply no longer be true for this present team.

And have the courage to hit “delete”.

How do you keep your core values alive and relevant?

the author

Scott Cochrane


  1. One way we keep our core values alive and relevant is to keep our staff position focus’ alive and relevant. Every six months everyone on our team (including support & administrative staff) have the option to re-write job descriptions and (what we call) key performance indicators. It is remarkable how, over the years, position focus re-writes keep bringing fresh angles and perspectives to our stated core values. A natural result of this has been that core values also morph and come to reflect where the team is headed.

    Some people might disagree, but we’d rather be prepared than planned. People and organizations who work long range plans usually end up becoming who they used to want to be instead of who they should be now. Anyways, great post! Keep ’em coming.

  2. Jeremy, love how you bring practical applications to leadership concepts! The idea of ‘being prepared’ and not just ‘planned’ is huge. Thanks for weighing in.

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