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Every company has values, but not every company truly lives (and works) by them. It’s those very beliefs that help build a strong team foundation and an even stronger company culture. However, a company’s moral code can easily get lost in the hustle and bustle of the work day.
The key to bringing organizational values front and center is to convert them into specific, behavioral examples. By modeling and rewarding behaviors that demonstrate each value, employees are constantly reminded of what their company stands for and how to better work by those principles. Additionally, these observable behaviors make it easier for employers to measure and manage company standards.
Don’t let organizational values sit on the company career page and in the new hire handbook. Here are four easy ways to bring them to life:
1. Put values front and center.
It can be easy to lose sight of company values when focused on the task at hand. They should guide all aspects of business, from the decisions we make to the talent we source to the way we interact with customers. But they can’t be applied if they’re not remembered.
So how can employers make company values stick?
Keep the company’s moral code at the forefront of everyone’s mind by making it prominent within the workplace. In addition to featuring it on the company website and in the employee handbook (neither of which employees look at on a daily basis), post it where employees often gather (conference rooms, snack rooms, etc.). At ClearCompany, we have them painted on the walls throughout the office, along with our logo, to serve as a daily reminder for our team.
Reminding employees of values doesn’t stop after crafting, laminating and posting posters throughout the office, however. They need to be communicated from the top on a regular basis.
2. Hire based on values.
Building a workforce that lives and works by the company moral code starts with hiring based upon values. For each of the company’s values, develop a list of questions designed to assess a candidate’s character and potential fit.
For instance, one of our values at ClearCompany is that we’re team entrepreneurial. Asking interview questions related to a candidate’s ability to be enterprising is essential to finding talent that shares and fulfills our values.
People are often predisposed to sharing (or not sharing) the company’s beliefs, so using the interview process to identify people who have similar principles is crucial to building a workforce that can successfully apply company ethics to everything they do.
3. Work (and play) by values.
The best way to bring organizational values to life is to model them. In other words, don’t just let them sit on the wall and call it a day. Live, work and play by them on a daily basis.
One of software company VMware’s values is to give more. The company does this by giving employees 40 hours of paid time off each year to volunteer. In addition to volunteering together, the company even has its own charitable foundation based on service learning, social investments, matching donations and milestone awards.
Actively model company values by aligning them with company culture activities, such as taking time off to volunteer together. Most important, lead by example. Show employees how it’s done by using company character to guide business decisions and empowering employees to do the same.
4. Reward and promote values.
Last, but certainly not least, promote organizational values by rewarding behaviors that demonstrate them. Don’t hesitate to publicly reward someone for exhibiting behaviors that are in line with the company’s character. Not only does this make the individual feel good, it also pushes the rest of the company to follow suit.
One way we reward employees at ClearCompany is by featuring employees who demonstrate our values on our company website. Whether it’s by making individuals “employee of the month,” featuring the employee in the company newsletter, blog and/or website or by giving them a simple pat on the back, just be sure the behavior doesn’t go unnoticed. After all, there’s no better way to promote great behavior than to reward it.
How does your company bring organizational values to life? Share in the comments section below!
Benjamin Franklin addressed values-based decisions years ago when he said, “We stand at a crossroads, each minute, each hour, each day, making choices. We choose the thoughts we allow ourselves to think, the passions we allow ourselves to feel, and the actions we allow ourselves to perform. Each choice is made in the context of whatever value systems we have selected to govern our lives. In selecting that value system, we are in a very real way, making the most important choice we will ever make. “
Over the years, I have seen hundreds of sets of organizational and team values plastered on every imaginable surface. All too often though, those values are not embedded into daily work and decisions. It’s easy to spot values-driven organizations by observing their decision-making process. Rarely a day goes by without a decision being made that explicitly considers one of their values. For nearly 20 years we have worked with Barry Davis, Executive Chairman of EnLink Midstream.
While the multi-billion dollar publicly-traded company he founded was still in its infancy, I partnered with Davis to develop their foundational E 4 values: Excellence, Employee Focus, Ethics and Enthusiasm. His team articulated actionable descriptors to support each value.
Today, EnLink is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise, and their values have been the core of its culture during the past 18 years of growth. Even as the company quintupled in head count and locations, EnLink continued to conduct all-employee quarterly meetings to demonstrate its value of Employee Focus. That decision came with significant time and financial investments. If Davis had based the ROI analysis solely on the numbers, he would have stopped the meetings a long time ago. But because he was committed to living their values, Davis and his team maintained the all-employee quarterly meetings as a forum for communication and for staying connected with the business and its people.
Similarly, I recall a Fortune 1000 company that wanted to offer new employee benefits that would give employees more choices to meet varying personal needs. But these new benefits came with a multimillion-dollar price tag. The Board approved the plan based on the company’s core value of “respect for the individual.” They realized that the cost of not living their values was ultimately much greater than the cost of the new benefits.
If you don’t use your values to make decisions and guide your actions, then why have them? If you do not value your team’s values, no one else will. So, as you are faced with decisions, use your values to help you determine what to do. Making a values-based decision sends a strong message about your values and your leadership.
Take the time to communicate your values, allow your team to personalize them and, most importantly, live them. Taking these steps will ignite your team’s passion and sense of ownership.
“Still don’t know what I was waitin’ for and my time was runnin’ wild; a million dead end streets and every time I thought I’d got it made, it seemed the taste was not so sweet.”
lyrics from ‘Changes’ by David Bowie
There are times in life when we feel lost. Something seems off, but we can’t put our finger on it. These feelings can manifest as boredom, restlessness, or even depression.
When this happens, one common scenario is to push harder. You put on a great game face and tell yourself that this will pass, to just ignore it and it will go away. Sometimes it does go away briefly.
You fill your life with activity and distractions, and maybe you feel better for a while. But in the quiet moments, the emptiness creeps back in.
Another reaction is despair and struggle. That lost feeling makes you claw around like a drowning man, grasping at salvation wherever you can find it.
You ask friends, go to counseling, read self-help books, trying this or that method or formula for happiness, peace of mind, and for the elusive “thing” that will provide them.
The strange thing about happiness and peace of mind is that they are ephemeral. You finally think you have found them, and then after a few months or years, they float away inexplicably. And you’re left stunned, because you really thought you had it right this time.
The wonderful and terrible thing about the human psyche is that it is constantly changing.
We silently (or sometimes tumultuously) drift into a new phase of life, but no one tells us to expect upheaval. Or if they do, we don’t believe them, because we have our particular life under complete control.
And then it happens. You step into the shifting sands of a life transition, and you are stuck. The more your flail, the more stuck you become. This has happened to me many times during my adult life. During the first few times, all I could do was wonder, “What’s happening, what’s happening?” It was totally unexpected and frightening.
In more recent years, I’ve come to expect these upheavals. All of that early flailing about wasn’t a complete waste. I did learn some things from the reading and searching. The most useful thing I learned is that it’s much better to go with it than fight it.
I also learned that this is the time to reevaluate. This is the time to embrace that everything you once valued as most important may not be what you value now. (Did you notice that the word “reevaluate” has the word “value” in it?)
When you are in the midst of a life transition, or even when you’re not, it is essential to regularly take stock of your values, and then do whatever you can to align your life with your most critical values. Living in harmony with those values creates the fertile environment for happiness and peace of mind. Some people call this living authentically.
When you do the exercise of assessing your values, you are helping yourself in two ways:
- First, the flailing about stops because you gain a sense of control over your destiny.
- Secondly, you discover that you always have the answers for yourself if you take the time and space to search for them. You will save yourself a lot of time and angst if you begin inside instead of outside.
Sometimes we need some cues to help us define our values. In my coaching work, I ask clients to review a list of value words to begin defining what’s important to them.
If you’d like to try this exercise now, here’s a good list of value words. Print out two copies now so that you can work with it as you read this article.
Here’s what to do:
1. First, go through the list of words on one copy and circle every value word that feels important to you for your life in general.
2. Then, go through the second list and circle every value word that feels important for your career or work.
3. For both lists, pick your top ten values, and write them down on two separate sheets of paper. Title one sheet “Life Values” and the other “Work Values.”
4. From each list of ten, pick the top five that are absolutely non-negotiable in your life. This may be hard, as all ten might seem that way. But you have to narrow the field to create a usable compass for your life and career.
5. Now get two more sheets of paper (one for Life Values and one for Work Values), and list each of your top five values, leaving a good amount of space for writing between each value.
6. Under each value, on the left side of the page list all of the ways you are currently living in alignment with this value. On the right side, list the ways you are living out of alignment with this value.
7. Now flip the papers over and list the values again, leaving space in between each word. For each value, think about actions you could take to fix those “out of alignment” situations. Write these down for both life and work even if the actions seem impossible right now.
8. On both lists of actions, make a check mark next to the actions that are doable for you now or in the near future. Break these actions down into even smaller, easily manageable actions.
9. Pull out your calendar and plot these small actions into your schedule in a way that is easy to accomplish. You don’t have to rush through this because you want to give your psyche time to catch up with your changes.
10. As you accomplish some of these smaller actions, you may want to revisit your list to see if you feel ready to tackle some of the harder ones. Use your feelings of emotional strength and self-confidence as a guide.
Even small, incremental changes that align your life with your values will create a huge shift in your feelings and attitude. You will have a sense of direction, a blueprint for your life and work that feels authentic to you, even if you can’t act on it all immediately. This is incredibly empowering. You will still have times of transition and upheaval, but this gives you the tools to navigate yourself to calmer shores.