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At the Core: It’s Values

by Jill Christie, President, Tuft & Associates, Inc.

The executive search process has certainly changed due to the pandemic, starting with little or no in-person interaction. It is that lack of personal contact and conversation in office settings that’s driving more candidates to take a deeper look at potential employers. They want to assess not only financial and strategic health, but also the organization’s culture and climate.

Certainly, a comprehensive position description and fundamental organization materials from financials to strategic plans are important. But, increasingly, executive candidates are asking about an organization’s core values: What are the principles, behaviors, and beliefs that guide leaders, employees, members, and stakeholders? What influences how the organization’s work is conducted?

In turn, more organizations are putting forth their core values in order to ensure that future hires will be a strong match.

What are organizational values?

Here is an example from one of our clients, the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB), who presented their core values in a recent CEO position description.

The successful candidate for CEO will be passionate about upholding PNCB’s values, which reflect the beliefs and behaviors we promote to guide the actions of certificants, volunteers, and staff.

  • Integrity: Acting with honesty and taking accountability for all we do and say.
  • Quality: Promoting excellence throughout all our interactions.
  • Innovation: Providing visionary leadership for the present and future.
  • Advocacy: Supporting and promoting the pediatric nursing profession.
  • Respect: Embracing collaboration and diversity of perspective.


Stating PNCB’s values, says Board Chair Natalie Van Waning, MSN, CPNP-PC, serves as “a grounding point for all Board members and staff to keep in check what our overall goal and mission is for the organization, and keep everyone on task for what is important.”

During an executive search, putting forth PNCB’s mission, vision, and values “shows interested candidates that we take all of these seriously. It alerts candidates that we’re seeking a higher level of leadership, not just day-in and day-out work.”

Finding alignment

Why are executive candidates taking a closer look at organizational values?

Adam Levy, Executive Director of the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association, explains: “Most important to me when looking for a new position was to find an organization that aligned with my beliefs. I was very deliberate about this and the ACPA fits what I wanted.”

Levy says that aligning with an employer’s value and mission creates “much more motivated, dedicated, and passionate employees.” Levy made alignment with the potential organization’s value system his “first priority. Each interview was an opportunity for small cues, comments, and statements to better understand their values and culture—all of which I took very seriously in my decision-making process.”

Today, in his leadership role at the ACPA, Levy has “no doubt” that the mission and values of the organization are aligned, enabling him to continue shaping its culture in tandem with this foundation.

Inspiring best efforts

PNCB CEO Sheri Sesay-Tuffour, PhD, CAE, explains, “We all stand for something. And our ability to understand, relate, and act is, in large part, due to what we value.”

As a CEO candidate, Sesay-Tuffour says she welcomed seeing PNCB’s values in both the CEO position description and on its website. She used the interview process as “part of her due diligence to seek more insight about how the organization was staying true to its values.”

Now, as PNCB’s CEO, Sesay-Tuffour says those values are even more vital. “The pandemic has forced organizations to question if they are making the right decisions during these challenging times. Our values remind us of our purpose and our shared commitment. They inspire our best efforts and help to realign behaviors important to our culture, our certified professionals, and stakeholders we represent.”

Sesay-Tuffour adds: “If there were ever a time when an organization’s values—their principles, ethical character, behaviors, and actions—mattered, it is now.”