I’ve written before about the importance of Core Values. But they deserve a bit more attention.
Every company has core values, whether they’re written or not. As an aside, if you don’t have any written values, consider the reasons that people have left (voluntarily and involuntarily) your organization. Those reasons are tangible evidence of the behavioral expectations of people in your company. These are your values.
So, now that you have them, what do you do?
Well, not sharing those expectations with your team is tantamount to asking them to play a game without revealing the rules. Consider for a moment a game. Let’s say it’s baseball. The players all know what to expect of their teammates because they all play by the same rules. They know how to react when certain situations occur and they’re ready to spring into action.
The real key of course, is to breathe life into your core values. Too often they’re just posted on a wall and that’s about it. We find that in many organizations, values are left to the CEO or HR to work with. VP’s of Sales and front-line sales managers often tell us they simply don’t have time to deal with them. This couldn’t be further from the truth! In fact, the best-run organizations we see are the ones where core values are part of every manager’s cadence.
Here are a few ideas to make values more meaningful regardless of the span of your management control:
Regularly highlight values to your team.
Whether it’s at a sales meeting or in a weekly email, call attention to one value each time. Better yet, when you do, use the time to share a specific example of an action taken by a team member that illustrates the value.
Never post a value without a corresponding behavioral definition.
For example, “Excellence” on its own is open to interpretation. It could mean anything. But “Excellence: Offers his or her best on all projects” is a little more tightly defined. A best practice is to provide three or four of these behavioral definitions.
The instant you see a value demonstrated, draw attention to it.
This might mean stopping a meeting to point out one of these examples. It may mean taking time during curbside coaching to congratulate a salesperson on positive values-consistent behavior.
Ask for examples from your team.
Encourage them to point out things their colleagues are doing (especially in other departments) that are values-consistent. This can be especially helpful for improving inter-departmental relationships.
Coach using the values.
Provide all feedback – positive and negative – couched in the language of your values. If you’re meeting with a member of your team about their performance, use the opportunity to highlight how they’re exhibiting behavior—whether it’s values-consistent or not.
Use your values to make hiring decisions.
The best way to do this is to create a set of questions based around your core values and rate candidates based on their answers. For example, one of our core values is “Life-long Learning.” We ask candidates about their biggest mistake. We want to hear them demonstrate the recovery and learning that came from it.
Finally, your values should also be used when determining whether it’s time for someone to leave your team.
You need to address behaviors that are inconsistent with your values. And, if the problem continues, it may be time for them to go.
Breathing life into your organization’s core values can reap wonders for your team. The more thoroughly they understand, appreciate, and live them, the more self-sufficient they become.