We all have company values, right? But are we absolutely sure that our values are actually ‘right’? Are they doing what we need them to do, which is to shape and guide the behaviors and actions of our employees, having them truly help our companies succeed?
Well according to a study by Gallup, the majority of companies don’t have the ‘right’ values. With only 27 percent of employees believing in them and only 23 percent using them as they go about their work, something isn’t right! And we can’t blame our employees, as it’s down to us to have values that our employees can believe in, and then use them (or as I say, ‘play with them’) so that they in turn believe in and use (play with them) time and time again.
So what can you do to ensure you have the ‘right’ values? Here are seven steps I share in my book “Bringing Your Values Out to Play” which can help you discover whether you have the right values in place (or to discover them for the first time):
Step 1: Start planning The first step is all about planning, which involves taking a step back and thinking through exactly how you’ll get things done. This is important because it forces you to think things through before you begin your discovery journey, making sure that once you begin you don’t have to turn around or start over because you’ve forgotten or have gotten something wrong. This includes determining who should join you on the journey (e.g. do you invite all your employees, a select group, or just your leaders?) and when is the best time to go on this journey.
Step 2: Stick them on the walls This is where the discovery, and the fun begins, for in this step you will physically or figuratively put all of your ideas for values up on the walls. You can do this in many ways, whether it’s conducting surveys, holding focus groups, or a combination of both (my personal preference).
But as fun as this step is, I know from experience that at first it may seem like an ominous task, as you don’t know where to begin or/or how to get this important information. The key is to be absolutely being clear as to what you are looking for, since as the expression goes, “garbage in, garbage out”.
Step 3: Invite them to the table
If step two is where the fun begins, step three is where the hard work begins. And that’s because at the end of step two you have a huge, if slightly unmanageable, list of values up on the wall.
But that’s fine, for this step involves turning chaos into a masterpiece by being clear that the purpose and desired outcome is to end up with a list of values that deserve a seat at the table. And like a table, there are only so many seats around it, so you’ll need to have those difficult (but lively) discussions in order to decide which ones are and which ones are not seat worthy.
Step 4: Test them out Now that you have a list of what could be your values, it’s time to test them out. During this step you’ll need to throw the values you’ve come up with in the previous step up against the wall, a different one this time, seeing if they “stick” by checking if and how they resonate with your workforce and leaders.
Step 5: Select the winners It’s now time to select your winners, those values that have safely made it through the previous four steps, showing that they have what it takes to win the competition. This also includes deciding how many values you want and if/how they will work together as a values set.
According to research conducted for my book, “Bringing Your Values Out to Play”, the most common number of values are five (37.5%), four (21%) and three (18.5%).
Step 6: Define your values with behaviors This step is where you take your values to the next level, giving them clarity, depth, and what I like to think of as a personality and a voice, or what we commonly call behaviors. This is so important, for if you want your employees to play with your values you need to give them the ‘rules of the game’, letting them know exactly what they mean in action. Don’t leave it to chance – it’s too important.
Step 7 – Set them free There’s a quote that says, “If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they’re yours; if they don’t they never were.” I choose this quote because I believe that’s exactly the goal of setting your values free, having them embraced and believed in so much that they come back to you time and time again in the actions and decisions made by your employees.
This is done through ‘bringing them out to play’ time and time again as you communicate and engage with your employees. In my book I share over 40 examples
of how companies such as Zappos, WD-40, DaVita and Radio Flyer are doing this in their hiring, onboarding, recognition and performance management, putting their own unique and playful spin on it. It’s up to you to decide how you’ll play with your values, the key is to get out there and do it!
So in ending let me challenge you to use these steps to help you discover your values, pushing yourself to have the right values for your business, and not to settle for anything less. All the best, and have a blast playing with your values!