Discovering and Developing Core Values

Why is it important to know the core values of your team? Because if you do not know where they are coming from, how on earth are you ever going to communicate with them? Let’s be honest. There’s a lot to do. And we can get so caught up in the task that we forget who we’re working with and that no matter how much they frustrate us or we get along with them, they are people just like you and me. They are people with outside lives and backgrounds that you are completely unaware of. They have histories that shaped how they think and how they feel. And those histories that have been shaped determine your relationship with them and how they perceive you. This in turn can also shape their productivity level at work and how they get along with you and others. In effect, it is imperative to know your team members to effectively lead them.


Photography credits: Dragomir Vujnovic. Used by permission.

A clarity of values helps us make daily decisions that are congruent with who we are. They are not just some nice little saying to frame on a wall. “Our values should be so crystallized in our minds, so infallible, so precise and clear and unassailable, that they don’t feel like a choice – they are simply a definition of who we are in our lives.”¹ When you know what motivates you to your core than those tough decisions become clearer when you ask the question, “How do these align with my values?”

This below list of values is taken from Brené Brown’s book Dare to Lead. If you haven’t already bought her book or listened to the audio I highly recommend it. This is one of the small gems from her book.

Directions for finding your core values. 

  1. Limit yourself to choosing 12 to 15 core values from the list below. They should ring true to you and say “this is who I am”. It doesn’t mean you don’t believe in it if you don’t choose it. It just means you wouldn’t say it’s the core part of who you are. So only choose ones you deeply identify with. 
  2. Out of the 12 to 15 core values that you pick narrow it down to 1 or 2 core beliefs. The way that Brené describes them is “…the beliefs that are most important to you, that help you find your way in the dark, that fill you with a feeling of a purpose.”¹

Brené Brown’s List of Values²

Print this page out if it makes it easier to check and circle your core values. I did this exercise and I was surprised by the results. I checked accountability, ambition, authenticity, creativity, connection, financial stability, integrity, stewardship, truth, uniqueness, vision, and wisdom. It was a little hard at first to narrow it down, but from the twelve I circled creativity and stewardship. Those are my two core values. And what’s interesting is you’ll find that the first twelve to fifteen you chose will fall under your two core values. For instance my two are creativity and stewardship.

Creativity >  authenticity, connection, uniqueness, vision 

Stewardship > accountability, ambition, financial stability, integrity, truth, wisdom

When I am being creative I am being authentic. I love to write, paint, and write songs because of the connection that it brings between me and other people. I hate singing cover songs, because my core value is creating. Cover songs are not unique. And finally vision. I love the vision that creativity brings. Out of a blank canvas a painting is born. From a pen, an idea, and chords a song is created. From an idea comes a blog that encourages others to read and grow their leadership skills.

 As for stewardship I have a strong sense of what has been entrusted to me. That also goes for my creativity. I feel accountable when I’ve worked as a nurse for all those I am entrusted with for that period of time. I am ambitious, because I feel that I should use all talents and skills to the best of my ability with what God has given me. Holding back on that would not being a good steward of what I’ve been given. Financial stability is another form of stewardship I relate to as well. That is why I decided to become a nurse so that I could work doubles on weekends, and work on songwriting in Monday through Friday. Integrity is one of the purest forms of stewardship. Without integrity we cannot efficiently be stewards of what we’ve been given. It will come crumbling down without integrity. Truth is another part of integrity and is necessary for self-development and living out stewardship. Wisdom is seeking the truth and being a steward through word and truth. 

This is how these values connect for me and come together to form creativity and stewardship as my core values. I can look back now and see all the times that I had made bad decisions, because I was not living into my values. Yours will be different from mine; however, when you complete this exercise you will see how your 12 to 15 values will fall under one or two of your core values. “Living into our values means that we do more than profess our values, we practice them. We walk our talk – we are clear about what we believe and hold important, and we take care that our intentions, words, thoughts, and behaviors align with those beliefs.”³

Once you know what your core values are it’s time to start putting those values into action. That means with ourselves and others. Each person has his or her own set of values just as each company has its own set of values. Sometimes those values that are written out as the company values are not in alignment with the behaviors and actions that are taken. This can happen for a number of reasons. First the people who actually wrote those values may not even be there anymore. No system was set in place to keep people accountable for those values. And finally the communication piece of what it means to actually live into those values is missing. Remember that we are all coming from different backgrounds. My definition of what stewardship looks like could be totally different from what yours looks like. So how do we actually take this from an idea to fleshing them out in definite action? 

First you need to know what those values are, for the company (or team) and for yourself. These values need to become what motivates your behaviors. If you are not trying to live into your values you can’t expect anyone else to either. These values of the team or company should be shared with everyone in one or two words. You can’t base decision off a paragraph. When ideas are then simplified, that’s when real change can occur. Also, understanding others on your team’s values helps to understand where they are coming from. It can also be helpful for you and them when it comes to accountability. Are these decisions in line with the company core values? Are the actions we’ve taken aligned with our own core values? We don’t know what we don’t know. We may think someone is being irresponsible, lazy, or rude. However, if we knew what their core values we might see them in a whole new light. It will also help us to understand those that we think we already know. 

Foxes and Hedgehogs

Why your ideas need to be simple can be summed up in Jim Collin’s tale of foxes and hedgehogs: 

“Foxes pure many ends at the same time and see the world in all it’s complexity. They are ‘scattered or diffused moving on many levels,’ says Berlin, never integrating their thinking into one overall concept or unifying vision. Hedgehogs, on the other hand, simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea, a basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything. It doesn’t matter how complex the world, a hedgehog reduces all challenges and dilemmas to simple – indeed almost simplistic – hedgehog ideas.”4

When you can determine what your core values and/or your organization’s core values are then you can help create action plans that lead you from good to great. Below are the three circles of the hedgehog concept created by Jim Collins

Three Circles of the Hedgehog Concept5


“More precisely, a Hedgehog Concept is a simple, crystalline concept that flows from deep understanding about the intersection of the following three circles:6

  1. What you can be the best in the world at?
  2. What drives your economic engine?
  3. What are you deeply passionate about?

I took these three questions from Jim Collins and made my own Hedgehog circle for VigilantPosterGirl.com. I used a large cup to trace the three circles. For those tech savvy who can easily whip this out on the computer, go ahead with your mad skills. 

Here’s how I answered those three questions. 

  1. What can VPG be best at? Being the best guide in the world to connect people with leaders and teachers that are smarter than me. 
  2. What drive our economic engine? Tools for leadership development
  3. What are you deeply passionate about? Developing strong ethical leaders and giving them a voice. 

 Vigilant Poster Girl's Hedgehog Concept

My two core values I placed in the center. If your company is putting this together then  your company’s core values will go in the center. By simplifying the complicated we keep our values and our actions in line.  

Join us in an amazing journey of transformation. SUBSCRIBE HERE

Sarah Jackson

Vigilant Poster Girl 


  1. Dare to Lead by Brené Brown Pg 189
  2. Dare to Lead by Brené Brown Pg 188
  3. Dare to Lead by Brené Brown Pg 186
  4. Good to Great by Jim Collins Pg 91
  5. Three Circles of the Hedgehog Concept from Good to Great by Jim Collins pg 96
  6. Good to Great by Jim Collins Pg 95 – 96 


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