Core Values

How to Create Your Family’s Core Values

Successful companies pour time, money, and resources to get their company culture and core values right. They do this because happy, aligned, and focused teams are necessary to a company’s success. Believe it or not, the same goes for your family!

Objective: In order to create the ideal environment (Culture) for your family to thrive, establish a strong set of rules, traits, and attributes (Core Values) that your family treasures above all else.

How to Apply It : To create your family’s core values, you need to come up with the values that you “authentically, deeply, passionately, really do have” – not the ones you think you should have. You don’t create your core values out of nowhere, you uncover them. A great way to do this is through the Mars exercise:

  • Step 1: Gather key family members for a meeting. You can even include your children who are old enough to talk. When you practice inclusive decision-making (including everyone from the beginning), you create real buy-in from the team and your decisions are more likely to succeed versus sharing the decision after the fact.
  • Step 2: Imagine you’ve been asked to create a new civilization on the planet Mars based on the very best members of your family. The catch – you only have 5-7 seats on the ship. Who would you send? Have each person write down the 5-7 people they think would best fit the bill. If you don’t have a big family, feel free to extend this to other people you are close with.
Write down the 5-7 family members that you would send to start a new civilization on Mars
  • Step 3: Have each person write down why they chose these people. When writing down the reason, ask: What make this person so amazing? What values do they exhibit, even when no one is watching?
Next to each family member, write down what makes this person so amazing!
  • Step 4: Go through everyone’s list and keep anyone mentioned more than once. Then review all the reasons why each candidate is amazing and summarize these reasons into primary attributes. This is how you get to the heart of what is most important to your family.
Discuss together the people and values you’ve chosen and what they all have in common.
  • Step 5: Once you’ve uncovered your family’s core values, take some time to define them. Make sure everyone is on the same page about what they mean and why they are important to you as a family.
Take your core values and define them.

Common Traps to Avoid:

  • Don’t rush through the process. Your family’s core values are the foundation of your family’s culture. Allow yourself as much time as needed to get it right.
  • Don’t copy someone else’s core values. Author Denise Lee Yohn emphasizes that “an authentic culture is a unique culture.” When you try to embrace someone else’s values as your own, you are not being true to what makes your family unique. Do the work and go through the process to ensure you’ve created a culture that works specifically for your family.
  • Be specific. When defining your attributes, you may be tempted to use words like “trust”, “integrity”, etc. As important as these traits are, these words are so overused and generic that they can become almost meaningless. Instead, ask yourself what “integrity” means to your family, why it is important, and how you see it playing out for you as a unit.