Core Values vs. Vision Statement


The first part of Proverbs 29:18 says “Where there is no vision the people perish.”

A company’s core values are what support the company's vision, culture, and values. Core values are your company's backbone. They define its principles and beliefs that it is willing to live or die for.

A vision statement is where your company aims towards and it’s your cause.

It’s a surprising fact that of the whole world, only about 13% of working employees are engaged in their jobs. Nearly 87% of employees just show up to collect a paycheck. So they lack enthusiasm and commitment to their job. Employers that get engagement from their employees will outperform their competition by 202%. Productivity improves by at least 20% in organizations with engaged employees.

So, what are some of the reasons for unengaged employees? It could be from poor management skills or they are not being challenged enough. A common problem is the lack of a company vision. Most employees do not express this but these are the concerns that underly dissatisfaction and an unengaged employee.

People want to know:

  • What is our cause?

  • What do we believe in?

  • Why are we doing what we do?

  • How is it possible that in the United States alone, more than 77 million adults have volunteered through an organization? This is nearly 7 billion hours of volunteer work. It is estimated that this value of time is over 165 billion in economic value. They volunteer because they know the cause, believe in what they are doing, and see their impact for good. People are willing to work for free as long as they are engaged.

Recently our company began the process of clarifying the mission, purpose and core values. A member of our management team had read Gino Wickman's book, Traction, and began implementing some aspects. Then as a management team, we read the book and reviewed it together to see how it could be fully implemented.

The title of the book itself is interesting when you look at the definition of traction.

Traction / (ˈtrækʃən) /


  • the act of drawing or pulling, especially by motive power

  • the state of being drawn or pulled

  • medical the application of a steady pull on a part during healing of a fractured or dislocated bone, using a system of weights and pulleys or splints

  • the adhesive friction between a wheel and a surface, as between a driving wheel of a motor vehicle and the road

To come up with the core values for our company we followed these 5 steps. Traction has an exercise to come up with the core values and explains in detail how to conduct the process.

Step 1: Set expectations

Gather your key leaders and make sure you all understand what core values mean for your company. They are a small set of essential, enduring principles that define your culture. A list of three to seven is the rule of thumb, and less is more. If your team isn’t all on the same page from the outset, you will struggle to agree on the final conclusion. And this is a process that’s too important to allow for any confusion or misunderstandings.

Step 2: Find your role models

Have each of your leaders make a list of three people at your company who are true superstars. These are the people you love, they fit the culture and you wish you could clone them. Ideally, these are three people not at the immediate table. It’s not the president of the company. It's members of the rank-and-file who represent what your ideal employee would look like.

Step 3: Determine what makes them special

Assemble a full list of all the names the leadership team came up with and add tick marks for those selected by more than one leader. Once you have your list, ask each leader to make a list of the characteristics, attributes, or traits that make their picks valuable. List all the words on a whiteboard. What makes someone a model member of your organization? This is the time to figure it out.

Step 4: Winnow down your list

Use the “Keep, Kill, and Combine” process of elimination. As Gino Wickman states in Traction, “Your organization’s core values are somewhere in that long list you’ve just created. Now, narrow it down.” In your first round of edits, circle the truly important ones, draw a line through the ones that are not, and combine those that are similar. Keep going until you have a list of ten to 15 options left.

Step 5: Final decisions

Now it's time to make the tough decisions. Discuss, debate, and decide which of the values that remain are essential to your organization. Get it down to three to seven core values that are cohesive together and represent your business. Once your leadership team is happy with what the list is, celebrate. You’ve successfully identified your organization’s core values.

Don't rush the process

This process can be exhausting so once you have succeeded, your first instinct might be to run out and share them with the world. Don’t. Let it simmer for a few weeks and meet one last time with your leadership team to do a final review and sign-off. Communicating your core values to the organization in the right way is vital. Make sure you have a clear delivery plan to roll them out. Tell stories around your core values to make them come to life. Find ways to incorporate them into your culture, your space, and your daily interactions, and revisit them to keep them alive.

Most importantly, make sure your leaders exemplify your core values. Leading by example will make or break the integrity of your entire plan. If your leaders cannot live your values every day, they become aspirational values, not real values. If this happens, you need to go back to the drawing board and start again.

As we followed the 5 steps, we also learned more attributes about ourselves and the appreciation we have for our co-workers.

We landed on 6 Core Values

  1. Do What’s Right

  2. People First

  3. Take Care of the little things

  4. Perspective Matter

  5. Focus

  6. Brutally Honest with Mittens

Since implementing the core values, we have been able to be more objective for our annual review process as well as our hire and fire process.

Each year we take time to recognize the employees by the department that best embodies the company’s Core Values. Every employee is given a list of the core values and then each employee makes a nomination for one employee of that department. It is special to have been nominated by your peers. The winning employee is given a substantial gift, we also place a plaque in the office lobby with a picture of the winning person.

As you can see, core values are not just words in a dusty handbook. They must be the heartbeat of everything you do in your organization. Choose who you want to be and then become that vision together.