As a leader or owner of an early childhood business, there is perhaps no better way to gather your troops around you for a common purpose than defining and communicating your vision and what you want your company to stand for. The best way I’ve seen other successful company leaders do this is through clarification of your mission, vision, and core values. We teach our Child Care Success Academy members how to construct and communicate meaningful core values, and this exercise makes a massive difference in the way they lead their organization.
Organizations summarize their goals and objectives in mission and vision statements. Both of these serve different purposes for a company but are often confused with each other. While a mission statement describes what a company wants to do now, a vision statement outlines what a company wants to be in the future.
The Mission Statement concentrates on the present; it defines the customer(s), critical processes and it informs you about the desired level of performance.
The Vision Statement focuses on the future; it is a source of inspiration and motivation. Often it describes not just the future of the organization but the future of the industry or society in which the organization hopes to effect change.
Core Values are the values that underlie our work, how interact with each other, and which strategies we employ to fulfill our mission. The core values are the basic elements of how we go about our work. They help you really define the behaviors you desire in your company, along with the “how” you do what you do. I was fortunate to meet author, speaker, and core values expert Anne Rhoades last year at the InfusionSoft conference. I often use the core values exercises in her awesome book “Built on Values”. Anne has helped many large and outstanding companies (Southwest, Jet Blue, and others) define their core values and embed them throughout their culture. You can shift the culture of your company over time using your core values to hire, review performance, and coach your employees to behave in ways aligned with company culture.
Here’s a specific example. The four core values of my company, Child Care Marketing Solutions, are:
- Customer first
Each new employee is brought on board in our company understanding these core values and how they shape company decisions. If we find ourselves at a crossroads in making a company decision, we let our core values provide the guiding light. I’ve also incorporated these core values into the employee performance review. For example, the behaviors we score associates on related to the core value of “Integrity” are:
- Acts with highest level of honesty and integrity
- Has collaborative and respectful manner
- Takes responsibility and meets commitments
- Acts confidently but never arrogantly
- Respects decisions and supports them with enthusiasm and follow- through
- Views conflict as opportunity to find constructive solutions
Core values can be statements, phrases, words, or concepts. Here’s an example of statement-based core values we helped craft for one of our Child Care Success Academy members:
- We Are Partners with Parents. (we are there for families when they need us, and we are first and foremost focused on the best interest of the child)
- We Demonstrate Kindness. (we lift each other up and act as role models to the children in our care)
- We Strive For Excellence. (we want to be the best but don’t require perfection)
- We Are Progressive. (we look for ways to innovate and be on the cutting edge of great service)
Your assignment: If you don’t have a mission, vision, and core values structure created for your company, use this article (and Anne Rhoades’ book Built on Values) to get started creating them. Consider holding a group input session with your leaders and/or full staff to help you create core values that everyone can buy in to. Post your core values on the wall, even framed on the wall of the employee restroom. Let them be a constant reminder and guide of the culture you want to flourish and stand for. If you do have these things in place, it may be a while since you’ve brushed them off and/or communicated them. If so, re-visit these important components of your culture and bring them to life again. Incorporate the values into how you hire, fire, assess, and reward your team members.