By Jeff Russell, Author of Secrets to a Successful Practice & Executive Director of the IAPAM
What are Core Values?
They are the values you and your practice hold as non-negotiable. It’s critical you understand and clearly communicate your core values since you will use them to base your practice management decisions and hiring and firing decisions. They will also keep you and your team focused.
You will typically only have two or three core values. These are the traits that already exist. You don’t do a brainstorming session and come up with a list of core values; they are already present in your practice, you just need to identify them. Not every company has the same core values; they will differ for every company.
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Some examples of core values may be:
Apple’s Core Values According to Tim Cook:
- We believe that we’re on the face of the Earth to make great products.
- We believe in the simple, not the complex.
- We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products we make.
- We participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.
My practice, Glenmore Healthcare’s Core Values:
- We are at our best when we work as a team.
- Treat everyone with Empathy, Honesty and Respect.
- Make a positive difference in every patient’s life.
There are no good or bad core values; they are just the values. I’m sure you know some companies that have bad core values. “To maximize shareholder value,” does not really make you want to shop there, does it? The key is for you to identify them, and if you do have some negative core values, then you can work on changing them.
I suggest that you come up with five to ten values that mean the most to you. These are values that invoke passion or disgust. For example, if you absolutely hate it when someone doesn’t do what they say they will do, you may list integrity or trust as values. When you are choosing your values, think of a story that exemplifies that value. Did someone constantly let you down, and you vowed never to do that to anyone else? Often one value, like integrity, will trigger many experiences and values. If you have values of encouragement, educate, competency, and teamwork, you may be able to bundle those with the core value of growth.
If you choose one-word core values, you will need to be prepared with a story that explains each one. After I did the exercise above, I came up with the following personal core values: For example, for my practice I chose:
For me, those values encompassed my personal and business philosophy. I share those values with a story, so my teams can better understand me, how I think, how I make decisions, and triggers to avoid. For example, growth is a core value, which means that I am always going to be looking for better ways to do things. If you want to work for a company that just does the same thing over and over again, then this is not the company for you! Technology is evolving at a record rate; I need people who can adapt and learn new technologies. Growth is a critical mindset to be successful in my practice.
These are strengths your company has, so it’s very important for you and your staff to clearly understand them so you can begin to create your competitive advantage.
If your values are treating all patients with empathy and teamwork, and treating others as you would like to be treated, what about honesty, integrity, teamwork, customer service, respect? Those are considered key values, and without them, you will have a recipe for failure.
Core Values + Key Values = Clarity
Every practice needs a combination of core values and key values to be successful. This unique combination will give you a basis for you and your team to make decisions within the practice.
For example, if one of your team members says they followed up with a patient complaint, and they did not, then we have a violation of the value of integrity and honesty. In my books, this is a serious violation, and it should be brought up to the employee immediately.
You will hire and fire based on your practice’s values. To make it easier to communicate, you may want to combine Core and Key Values and just call them “Core Values” or “Our Values” for simplicity. When done, you should have a list of between three to six values.
You will need to constantly communicate, and I dare say, over-communicate, your values. Ideally, you should post them in the practice so both your patients and team members can view them at all times.
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