3 Tips for Breathing Life into Your Organization’s Values

March 11, 2018 | Karen Weeks | HCI
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An organization’s values should be more than its DNA. Values should represent the best aspects of your team, and what it takes to be successful as you grow.

An organization should review its values every few years to make sure they still drive the right cultural behaviors. If the current values don’t do so, leaders should take a step back and adjust them. If they are the right values, are they ingrained in your day-to-day, or just written on a poster?

Below are three tips to make sure your organization has the right values and that you bring them to life each day.

1. Who are we today?

Your values should be a compass for your team members for how they behave and interact with each other, and will most likely change throughout the organization’s stages.

For example, depending on the maturity of your company, you might need to focus more on “learnings” versus “actions”. As you review your values, include your full team and ask them for suggestions on what new values could be.

2. Representing the best of the best.

Look at your current values, or the new possible values, and then assess the people who best represent your culture. Who is someone you would clone and why, outside of just performance? Then use those role models and get their buy-in on any values changes you are looking to make. How can people demonstrate the values of how you work as an organization? For example, if one of your values is about respect, but meetings are facilitated poorly, the value of respect is not being exercised.

3. Bring your values to life.

Once you have the right values in place, make sure they drive the way you work each day. It’s not just about interviews and recognition programs, it’s about how you work as a team, whether that is meeting etiquette, how you make decisions, how you interact with customers, etc.

For example, leaders of a retail organization reinforce their values by giving team members examples of how to live their values by using “I” statements. As an example, for the value around customer focus, it says, “I treat customers like I’d want to be treated.”

A tech company uses “pillars of expectations” to describe the behaviors and use a hashtag to capture the value associated with that (example #respect). Those hashtags are used to create a dashboard of recognition in an online portal.

Ultimately, your values are what your team should be living and breathing every day. So, if they are no longer the right ones, are not represented in your key people, or aren’t encouraged every day, they’ll be no more than words on a coffee mug.