Every company has a set of values, whether or not they are codified or articulated. Having an expressed set of core values though creates a strong company culture, a team foundation, and sets your company apart from your competitors.
Coming up with a strong set of values and then living them out takes determination and commitment. If you are having trouble articulating your values, don’t worry, we have some fundamental questions to ask yourself to help you, and follow up with key ways to start living out your values.
How to develop your company’s core values
Identify your values
To begin identifying your company’s core values, ask some of these foundational questions:
- Why do you do what you do?
- Why does your company exist? What is your purpose?
- How is the world different with your company in it? What legacy are you leaving behind with your work?
- Who does your company serve?
- What does your brand believe in? What are you willing to go to the mat for?
- Are there certain fundamentals that are not up for compromise? What is non-negotiable for you?
These questions ask you to think critically about your foundations and aspirations. Both of which are bedrocks to values. The next set of questions asks you to think about what you presently have in terms of values, ideals, characters, ethics, in your team members:
- What do you admire about your team? What do you want more of from your team?
- What drives your decision making?
- What are key qualities that every person a part of your company must possess and demonstrate?
- What behaviors and attributes do you think best demonstrate your company?
These questions are intended to see where you are working from and working with––and what is missing. That balance of what you have and don’t have will be a determining factor in what kind of training and transformation your company has to do to begin living out your values and your purpose.
This next set of questions ask you to look outside of your organization for inspiration:
- What are some sources of inspiration for your company?
- Who are exemplars of values, ethics, and purpose you wish to embody and emulate?
- What do you have at your company that a competitor does not?
A notable set of core values will differentiate your company from others in your marketplace. And looking outward at other organizations, companies, workplaces, can help you identify what you like about your existing work environment and present skills, what don’t you want to incorporate into your workplace, and or what you’d like to see in your company’s values.
Your core values should explain these five points:
- Why does your company exist?
- Who you strive to be and what do you strive to do?
- How will you do that?
- What is so important to you, your organization, your employees there is no sacrificing this element?
- What makes your work valuable?
You’ll probably have a lot of values that come from this exercise. So you’ll want to prioritize, condense, and eliminate. After you have narrowed down your core values into a few words, phrases, or statements, it’s time to define them.
Define your values
Your core values should be more than just words, they have to be a way of life in your office. Defining your core values with clear definitions will help your organization carry them out.
Katie Douthwaite Wolf was working at a startup company and helped develop a process to articulate a set of core values. One of their core values was “ownership mentality.” But what that meant and how that was implemented, they found to be varied and difficult. At face value, ownership mentality, like most values, is vague.
Defining what it meant and what it looked like in practice provided clarity on how employees should incorporate this value into their work and what it should feel like when practiced:
“We’re not just employees—we’re truly invested in the company. Our ideas are heard; moreover, they are taken into serious consideration, and often, implemented company-wide. Because we know that we are a vital part of the company, we consistently act with the company’s best interest in mind. We confidently make quick decisions on the job because we’re completely in line with the company’s mission and purpose. As employees, we have the authority to make decisions that are in the best interest of the company and the power to improve the way we run our business.”
What makes this definition great is that it gives employees a precise understanding of what it means and entails. It not only is a function of their work but a function of feeling by being an employee with this company. Definitions should serve as a blueprint for behavior and mentality.
Values only work if they are attainable in every day work, and are going to serve as a push towards your form of excellence. What you’ve set out as your core values has to work for you and have to be lived.
Live your values
You can have beautifully crafted value statements, but values are practices, they have to be lived. If you have strong values, they will present themselves in every dimension of your company’s day to day operation. Here are three ways to exemplify your company’s values.
Hire the right people
One of Ajay Pattani’s, of Perfect Search Media, go-to interview questions is: “describe an experience in your last role where you took initiative and created or implemented a process.” The answer to this type of question is an indicator of their alignment with your company’s values. Do they actively practice your values in their work?
Teach your values
It’s unreasonable to think people can just read a document with expressed values and start implementing them. People learn by seeing cause and effect, and consistent and formal training will help your team learn how to utilize your company’s values in their work and understand how much you value your values.
Leverage your company values in company communications by shouting out a team member that demonstrated a core value with tremendous success or talk about how a problem can be addressed by a behavior implicit in a core value.
Offer consistent training on core values. There may be new ways to operationalize your core values, or better ways to act out a core value. Training allows your values to evolve and deepen within your company’s workplace.
Make values a conversation
It’s vital that your values have checks and balances to ensure they are being lived and are not just statements. A feedback loop allows your company to listen, address missteps or lackluster application of values, and celebrate values when they are lived.
This requires that at every level of your organization, there are regular conversations about the execution of values. Is the work behavior emblematic of your values? Are your clients best representing your values? Who in your company is exemplifying your values? Shout them out in your company wide meetings.
Because your values are so integral to your organization’s core, they should grow with you as your company inevitably evolves. This can look like an annual conversation about the nature of your company culture or the evolution of your work, your clients, the marketplace you operate in.
Messaging your values
Being intentional with your chosen values and how you demonstrate them externally, interacting with clients, the work you produce for them are all factors of why clients choose your brand and not another. People buy with their values, so how you message your values is an incredibly important part of marketing yourself.
We know you’re busy running a company and living your values, so if you need help articulating how your values align with your brand– that’s what we’re here for. Contact us today.