Hi everyone. Annie here. Just the other day, Heather McGonigal (our program director and executive coach extraordinaire) and I were having an interesting conversation about leadership and teamwork. Company values in the workplace came up, a hot topic these days. And it’s a frequent point of discussion in our coaching with clients.
Anyone will tell you, you have to have strong values within every organization. Your company values are core beliefs, and all who work for your company need to understand and uphold them. At least everyone should, (from the CEO to everyone on the team).
For sure, company values are the foundational framework that create an outstanding culture.
They provide the principles of how people should work together, helping them to consistently achieve great results. And strong values create a positive environment, a structure of clear expectations and accountability where ‘A-Players' want to work and will choose to stay long term. Values demonstrated by leaders daily, build their leadership reputation and contribute strongly to their own job satisfaction and that of their team.
However, as Heather and I discussed values in the workplace, we agreed that values are sometimes misunderstood. Why is that?
First of all, creating a list of values may roll out naturally in your company. Oftentimes, they are a list of common words and catchphrases. But also, values are acted on differently due to the people part—where perceptions, life experience, and definitions vary. Hence, communicating and defining company values clearly to the team, so that they drive you and your team’s everyday actions, is not always as easy as it sounds.
Human nature confirms to us that company values aren’t always acted on consistently.
How do we suggest you create a culture of values, so that they represent and promote your company’s mission, vision, and success?
Let’s use “integrity” as one example. I chuckle to myself, because in all my years of working with companies, and in my own company, and as I interview people, no one ever says integrity is not one of their values. No one says, “No, I don’t have that value!” Everyone says they want to be a professional person of integrity. The problem is that there can be different interpretations in how people interpret and demonstrate integrity.
To make my point: What does integrity actually look like?
It depends on the work you do, the product you create, or the people you serve. It has to be broken down to actions of integrity that can be demonstrated within your company. Like how is respect, honesty, reliability, trustworthiness put into action? Only you can answer that precisely.
There are many inside and outside factors that influence company values. Since business is complex, we know that real company values might be vague or diluted, lost in the shuffle you might say, as people navigate the challenges they face each day. Clearly, integrity cannot simply be written as a value on a poster on the wall. There needs to be more…
However, to make integrity (or another core company value) into a value that is put into action, here are some suggestions to get you started:
- With your team, list your company’s core values. The number varies, but I’ll suggest that you start out with a simple list of three to six core company values.
- Define each value in one word (i.e. “integrity”) and then consider it with your team: How do you actually demonstrate that you are operating from integrity?
With your team, you need to agree on the definition of each value by using specific examples from various situations you face regularly. To clarify, agree on what words, actions and behaviors that model “integrity” within your organization.
- Team Success Standards:
Descriptive behavioral statements: How you do it.
Observable: Specifics that demonstrate (to others) you are doing it
Tangible: Can regularly be measured, sensed or tracked
Must be a STRETCH: A significant change or DO DIFFERENTLY!
- Repeat this process with each core value. With your team, discuss one value at a time and discuss how it looks, and the effect it will have, when it is put into action within your company. Remember to consider how this value is demonstrated between team members, as well as how it is demonstrated with your clients.
- In descriptive language, clearly paint the picture of how your team/company will look in the future when you are operating in accordance with your core values. Due to these values, what will you continue to “do differently” with team interactions, with one another, and with your clients?
Living within a culture of clear and measurable company values encourages all people within the company to model them! This fosters an environment that retains the best talent and brings greater job satisfaction.
Defining your values is worth the effort!
It’s exciting for us as we guide CEOs and teams in how to create a culture of values that they can live out. Teams become more impactful when they know what is expected of them and how to demonstrate the core company values through their performance.
Try this today.
You spend a lot of your day working, so living out company values is collaboration at its best, and a great way to spend your day. Together, enjoy taking fuzzy ideas and make them a clearly stated/written list of values.
Make them specific, and put them into action by using our suggestions from the bullets above. You might try this at your next company retreat, or during an afternoon meeting. It’s a team activity that is motivating. And it is eye-opening, and gives glimpses into each person’s priorities as far as understanding and implementing your organization’s values.
Individuals within your company will be energized and strengthened when everyone (leaders and team) dial in to what matters most and align on the company values. It will fortify their ability to achieve outcomes, while also feeling uplifted in how they are doing it—applying these clear standards of behavior and purpose!
Whatever your game, just like an athletic team on the court or on the field, leaders and teams that focus on values, and define and align to put them into action, win the game.
We all strive to live out our values! It can be tough, so let us know if you have comments or questions. We invite you to share with us, because we’re always learning from each other.
Together, let’s drive success!
This is Leadership!