How pervasive and helpful are core values in your organization? At worst, your values live on your web site; in your annual report; and in your office, in a static and meaningless way. Ideally, they are integrated into everything you do, and act as a compass for your culture and decision-making. Is it possible to reach the ideal?
The Problems with Most Values
Too often, organizational values are what thought leader Patrick Lencioni calls “permission to play” values. These are values such as integrity, honesty, transparency, etc. Sure, these are important values, but they do not help differentiate or define the desired culture. At 1-degree, we call these values “motherhood and apple pie.” The problems that arise from this are:
- Values are not meaningful enough.
- Values are not explicit enough. For example, if integrity is a value, what does it mean? What are a few behaviours that support it?
- Values are often on the sidelines vs integral to the organization. So, what to do about this?
A Leadership Perspective on Values
I was Founder & Partner of Fusion Learning from 2000-2012. In 2004, we decided that we needed to be more explicit about our culture. It was one of the most important things we did as a leadership team – to be explicit about our culture. We took action by:
1/ Identifying the issue– We weren’t loving some of behaviours going on, so we thought we better define our core values.
2/ Creating core values Our executive team crafted core values as a collective with some of our high performers. The core values we defined back in 2004 that still stand today at Fusion Learning are:
- Deliver excellence– this helped us focus on A+ as our standard as a premium service provider
- Lead creatively– to encourage everyone to be leaders and to take initiative for improvements
- Learn & Grow– as a sales effectiveness firm, being deliberate learners was at our core
- Communicate & Collaborate– to encourage team behaviour & regular cadence of communication
- Celebrate & Appreciate– to recognize each other for the moments & milestones along the way
3/ Executing the Change – The executive team determined how everyone would live and breathe the new core values. We had post-its on our wall in the kitchen of people modelling these values and wove recognition into every team meeting. These values were also consistently integrated into, and the foundational of leadership 360’s and 1 on 1’s.
Some of the core values should be aspirational. The toughest value for me to activate at Fusion was “celebrate and appreciate.” As a fast moving and impatient entrepreneur, I have always found it difficult to stop, celebrate and recognize. Yet, by agreeing to commit to this value, it has helped me take time out to do it….sometimes! Overall, our values were incredibly helpful to define our desired culture and shift the behaviour of the employees.
Using My Fusion Experience to Ignite Meaning and Strategy in 1-degree Core Values
Now, I am part of the leadership team at 1-degree. From Fusion, I recognize the importance of clearly outlining core values at the very start. So at 1-degree, we also have spent lots of time and energy to define our core values. The 1-degree core values are:
- Deliberately learn, coach & grow – this is at the core of who we are
- Be smart about who does what – this is helping with our efficiency
- Be real – this encourages real, respectful & sometimes tough conversations
- Be playful – injecting humour and fun into what we do
- Manage promises – to help us be conscious of our commitments & deliver
- Be grateful – gratitude is such an important value & forges deeper connections
- Choose love over fear – there is A LOT of fear in our organizational culture work and we need to work on this as well.
So, we all have a choice with values as leaders. They can be static and meaningless. Or, they can be well defined, evolve over time and act as a compass for your culture and decision-making. How can values better shape and activate your desired culture? If you would value a conversation to talk it through, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.