Getting your company values right


6 tips for getting your company values right. It doesn’t matter what your business does, where you’re located, or how many people you have. One thing in common is that you need each and every one of your employees working and moving in the same direction, working together to strengthen and grow your business. But if your employees don’t have a map and an instructional manual, something to guide them in their actions and behaviours, how will they get there? 

Enter company values, something that organisations of all sizes and industries have put in place, guiding their people in good times and in bad, helping them get to that final destination. But like anything, there are good company values and bad ones. Ones that clearly and effectively guide their people, and ones that are so vague, bland or confusing that they sit on the shelf and do little to create the focus and alignment that your business and people need. 

To help you get your values “right,” let me answer two key questions:

  1. What do good values look like?
  2. What steps do I take to discover or re-discover our values?

What do good values look like?

Here are five descriptions of what good values do and how they look. If you have values already, compare them against this list to determine if they “tick the boxes,” and if you don’t have values, use them to help you discover them:

  1. They are servants to your mission and purpose – they support, align and drive your company’s mission and purpose forward, keeping you focused on what your business is trying to achieve.
  2. They are specific to your company – they specifically relate to and are meaningful to your culture and your ways of working, helping you say and do things in your own way.
  3. They guide decisions and actions – they act as guidelines or guideposts to your employees, helping them make decisions even when leaders are not around. When used properly, employees use them to ask questions such as, “how can my values help me choose a path and make a decision?” 
  4. They can and will take you to a new planet – they not only help you in the short-term, but have an eye and focus on the future to help you achieve your more long-term goals and objectives. They should help you stretch and push your people and business towards the next “planet” or goal.
  5. They have behaviours that work alongside them – and finally, they have behaviours to sit and work and sit alongside them. Think of it this way, a value answers the question “what,” what is important to my company and my employees in order to deliver on the company’s mission and purpose? A behaviour answers the question “how,” how will my employees think, act, and behave in order to deliver through your values? For this reason, it’s important to have both.

What steps do I take to discover or re-discover our values?

Let’s now move onto the process of discovering or re-discovering your values, the “right” ones. To help you with this, let me share a three-step process I developed for my DIY Values Toolkit called the “WTH Approach.” This approach is a way that you can discover, filter and select values that will set your business and your people up for success.  

“The journey to discover your true company values involves looking at what you already say, what you already do, what you already believe, and what you want and need to protect.” 

Debra Corey, Bringing your values out to play

Step 1 – W: Put your values on the wall

This first step is where you’ll begin the process, with the objective being to discover values that should be put up on the wall, meaning they are the ones that at first glance will help you deliver on your business and people objectives.

Don’t worry if you have a lot of potential values at the end of this step — it’s normal and will be helpful as you move onto the next step. Also, don’t  get hung up on the specifics of the words right now, as later on in the process the values will be turned into suitable words that are right for your company and your culture.

Step 2 – T: Invite your values to the table

This next step is where you’ll refine and prioritise the values into those that deserve a seat at the table. These are ones that you just can’t walk away from as they’re so critical to the life, health, and success of your company.

Here are two things to keep in mind during this step:

  • “Permission to play” values – Some of the values you have come up with during step 1 may be considered what are called “permission to play” values, which means they are fundamental and essential, minimum standards of behaviour, but don’t necessarily help differentiate you or help you achieve your objectives. Think of them like the air that you breathe, they’re important but they’re a given in how you live.
  • Be selective – Be selective here, keeping in mind that there are only so many seats at the table, so select ones that you think deserve this seat.

Step 3 – H: Bring your values home

This final step is where you’ll bring home the values that have been discovered up to this point, selecting your winning values and then putting these into your own words, infusing your own culture, personality, and tone of voice.

There are two parts to this step: 

  1. Select your winners – these are the ones that you decide should be your final values. 
  2. Making them your own – this is where you make them unique, relevant and meaningful to your business and your people. For example, a mattress company’s final values include “we are experts in support,” “we don’t believe in being sheep,” and “we won’t sleep until you do,” all which take traditional concepts and put them in their own language.

I hope you’ve found this helpful, and all the best in getting your values “right.”