A company vision and plan for profits help employees see what is to be achieved. What’s missing for most small businesses are the shared values that help employees understand how they are expected to work together to accomplish company goals. The good news is defining your shared values is easier than setting your vision or framing your profit plan. All you need to do is complete three easy to do exercises to establish the core values for your company.
Your company’s culture shapes what is acceptable or unacceptable, important or unimportant, right or wrong, workable or unworkable. It includes all learned and shared, explicit or implicit, assumptions, beliefs, knowledge, norms, values, attitudes, behavior, dress, and language.
A company’s values are the core of its culture. While a vision articulates a company’s purpose, values offer a set of guidelines on the behaviors and mindsets needed to achieve that vision. While many companies find their values revolve around a few simple topics (integrity, respect, professionalism, etc.), the originality of those values is less important than their being consistently modeled by the management team.
The strategic intent of your company values is to be guiding principles for how your company does business. They are the most efficient way of defining what is and what isn’t acceptable behavior. As a result, they rarely change.
Values are of little importance unless they are reinforced in a company’s practices. If an organization professes, “people are our greatest asset,” it should also be ready to invest in people in visible ways. Whatever business owners’ value, they must be strengthened in contribution review criteria, incentive payouts, and promotion policies. They must be baked into the operating principles of daily life across the company to help your employees work together to achieve company goals.
The best company values define what makes an organization unique to work for and with. In identifying the values that best represent your company, consider the following:
- What makes us different from our competitors that we want our company to be known for?
- How do we want those who interact with our people to remember them?
No company can build a strong culture without people who either share its core values or possess the willingness and ability to embrace those values. People stick with cultures they like. Your shared company values reflected in how work gets done is the most efficient way of defining what is and what isn’t acceptable behavior.
Recognize that trying to improve your company culture with catered lunches, free massages, and NERF guns is like trying to survive on popcorn. While the buttery goodness might be satisfying for a while, the nourishment that will fuel good culture is the meat and potatoes of employees who feel valued and supplied with guiding principles and trust.
Step one: identify what you think best represents the values your company needs to live
This first values-defining exercise aims to develop one-word values to build value statements around. Below are the most common values identified in businesses across the United States. From this list, check the box for up to five values you want to see yourself and those in your employ live by. Be prepared to share how you would know you are living each value you select and how you would know you weren’t living that value.
Select up to five out of the following most common values identified in businesses across the United States:
- Integrity (Honesty, Truth, Honor)
- Trust (Confidence, Belief)
- Loyalty (Reliability, Dependability)
- Respect (Esteem, Dignity)
- Excellence (Quality, Performance)
- Responsibility (Accountability, Commitment, Obligation)
- Teamwork (Collaboration, Cooperation)
- Diligence (Persistence, Carefulness)
- Discipline (Self-control, Self-restraint)
- Innovation (Creativity, Ingenuity)
- Accomplishment (Results, Success)
- Fairness (Diversity, Inclusive)
- Care (Service, Compassion)
- Performance (Execution, Working)
- Passion (Enthusiasm, Fun)
- Leadership (Influence, Competitive Advantage)
- Learning (Continuous Improvement, Knowledge)
- Service (Help, Benefit)
- Customers (Customer Satisfaction)
- People (Employee Engagement)
- Safety (Care, Security, Protection, Well-being, Health)
- Community (Corporate Citizenship)
- Environment (Sustainability)
If there is a value you want to see in your company not represented above, list it below:
Step two: select how best to structure your company values so they are easily understood by your employees
After you have identified no more than five core values, review the following examples of business values to see which format best represents how you want to express your company values. Circle any particular values statement structure you see as the best way to communicate the values you identified in the first exercise.
American Express values:
- Customer Commitment: We develop relationships that make a positive difference in our customers’ lives.
- Quality: We deliver premium value to our customers.
- Integrity: We uphold the highest standards in all our actions.
- Teamwork: We work together, across boundaries, to meet the needs of our customers.
- Respect for People: We value our people, encourage their development and reward their performance.
- Good Citizenship: We’re good citizens in the communities in which we live and work.
- A Will to Win: We exhibit a strong will to win in the marketplace and in every aspect of our business.
- Personal Accountability: We are personally accountable for delivering on our commitments.
- Performance: Sport is the foundation for all we do and executional excellence is a core value of our Group.
- Passion: Passion is at the heart of our company. We are continuously moving forward, innovating, and improving.
- Integrity: We are honest, open, ethical, and fair. People trust us to adhere to our word.
- Diversity: We know it takes people with different ideas, strengths, interests, and cultural backgrounds to make our company succeed. We encourage healthy debate and differences of opinion.
- It is our nature to innovate.
- Nike is a company.
- Nike is a brand.
- Simplify and go.
- The consumer decides.
- Be a sponge.
- Evolve immediately.
- Do the right thing.
- Master the fundamentals.
- We are on the offense – always.
- Remember the man. (The late Bill Bowerman, Nike co-founder)”
- A focus on success
Procter & Gamble values:
- Passion for Winning
Ben and Jerry’s Ice-Cream values:
- We strive to minimize our negative impact on the environment.
- We strive to show a deep respect for human beings inside and outside our company and for the communities in which they live.
- We seek and support nonviolent ways to achieve peace and justice. We believe government resources are more productively used in meeting human needs than in building and maintaining weapons systems.
- We strive to create economic opportunities for those who have been denied them and to advance new models of economic justice that are sustainable and replicable.
- We support sustainable and safe methods of food production that reduce environmental degradation, maintain the productivity of the land over time, and support the economic viability of family farms and rural communities.
- Leadership: The courage to shape a better future
- Collaboration: Leverage collective genius
- Integrity: Be real
- Accountability: If it is to be, it’s up to me
- Passion: Committed in heart and mind
- Diversity: As inclusive as our brands
- Quality: What we do, we do well
- Focus on the user and all else will follow.
- It’s best to do one thing really, really well.
- Fast is better than slow.
- Democracy on the web works.
- You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.
- You can make money without doing evil.
- There’s always more information out there.
- The need for information crosses all borders.
- You can be serious without a suit.
- Great just isn’t good enough.
- Humbleness and willpower.
- Leadership by example.
- Daring to be different.
- Togetherness and enthusiasm.
- Constant desire for renewal.
- Accept and delegate responsibility.
- Work Hard
- Desire to be the best
- Be courageous
- Display urgency
- Follow The Golden Rule
- Adhere to the Principles
- Treat others with respect
- Put others first
- Be egalitarian
- Demonstrate proactive Customer Service
- Embrace the SWA Family
- Have FUN
- Don’t take yourself too seriously
- Maintain perspective
- Celebrate successes
- Enjoy your work
- Be a passionate Teamplayer
- Safety and Reliability
- Friendly Customer Service
- Low Cost
Starbucks Coffee values:
- Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.
- Acting with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our company and each other.
- Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect.
- Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.
Step three: work with your management team to draft your company values
Select a facilitator and a scribe for your values-setting discussion. The role of the facilitator is to keep the conversation flowing among management team members, with the scribe recording the core thoughts and ideas being shared. Bring 3” by 3” post-it notes to the management team meeting to capture the value words for display during the second part of the company values meeting.
At the beginning of the meeting, the facilitator picks a member of the management team to share the number one value they want themselves and all employees to live by and why from step one. The scribe is to be recording examples of how one would know they are living the stated value and how others would know when someone isn’t living that value. The facilitator asks for anyone else who has a similar value. Continue going around the room until everyone has shared their chosen values.
Once all of the values have been discussed, have each member of the management team record up to five values they would like to see everyone in the company live on the post-it notes. The facilitator is to note that participants aren’t limited to the values they presented. The goal is to have them force rank the values they want to see adopted from one to no more than five.
The next step is to have each management team member place their post-it notes on a shared wall for all to see. As the notes are being posted, the facilitator is to cluster related values together. The objective of this step is to see the size of the different value groupings. This step usually has three large groupings of values and a scattering of smaller groupings to individual values reflected on the wall.
Once the values are clustered into like groups, the facilitator starts with the largest group of values to establish how these similar values are to be identified. The goal is to give the first value a single word title and then confirm with the team that this is the number one value. Continue to the second-largest grouping until you have identified your five core values. Note that less than five is acceptable, but no less than three values should be identified.
Now that the core values have been identified, it is time to determine how the individual value statements should be structured as a team. The goal is to determine how your value statements will be structured based on the preferred communication approach selected from step two.
Now that you have the identifying word for each core value and the structure for communicating the value, it is the facilitator’s role from the notes captured by the meeting scribe and their creativity to develop clear and concise statements for each value so that anyone can easily relate to the spirit of each value. Once they have drafted the value statements, the facilitator circulates the draft values statement for feedback.
Using the feedback provided, the facilitators’ responsibility is to fine-tune the values statements as they see best. There is no obligation for the facilitator to adopt all the feedback. Their task is to help the group draft the value statements as they see best by appreciating reactions to their first draft.
Once the draft is finalized, another management team discussion is held to accept or reject the draft values statement. Should anyone have significant issues with the draft, they then own facilitating the next round of edits until you have finalized how the owner or management team leader wishes to communicate the newly established company values.
It is the responsibility of the company leader to direct how the value statements are to be rolled out, being clear on what management team members are expected to do by when. The company leader will also want to confirm how they will be monitoring employee alignment with the values going forward from both catching people living the values and consequences for violating the values.
Would you like help establishing the values for your business?
Click here to speak with one of our certified business coaches to learn how we can help facilitate the identification of your core values as part of helping you develop yourself and your management team.
Would you like some help establishing the values for your business?
Click here to speak with one of our certified business coaches to learn how we can help facilitate the identification of your core values as part of helping you develop yourself and your management team.SCHEDULE APPOINTMENT