This article is the third and last in a series about organizational values. The first article explains why values are important for a company, the second article offers a worksheet to help you uncover values with your team, and this third article explores different ways you and your team can live out your company values.
3- 6 Ways To Live Out Your Company Values (you’re here)
As outlined in the first two parts of the series, organizational values guide how employees engage with each other and with their customers, beneficiaries, partners and other stakeholders. To be impactful, values must be formalized, documented and communicated across the organization and endorsed by company leaders.
At Cosmic Centaurs, we believe that values should not be limited to ‘writings on the wall’ or a section on your company website. Rather, we believe values are an essential and critical aspect of the organizational experience that need to be reinforced across employee touch points to truly be integrated into the culture and inner workings of a company.
In this article, we share 6 different ways you can align your team to its values, and help your team members champion these values through internal communications in a variety of instances during the team lifecycle.
1. Communicating Values Internally
First things first, in order for values to be espoused, they must be communicated across the organization. Whether it’s in an annual letter from the CEO, a Town Hall meeting or on a slack channel, there are many ways to communicate values and virtues within your team or company.
One example we admire is GitLab’s handbook of values. The handbook features the organization’s values and an extensive, detailed description of how employees can express the virtues. In the section on Collaboration, GitLab included details about how to give feedback, how to apologize and how to balance kindness and honesty, among other components of team collaboration. With examples of the virtues, team members have a clear idea of how to behave and put the value into action. This document is not only a resource for learning and accountability, but also, when made public it allows those who are interested in working for your organization to see if their values align with yours ahead of the hiring process.
To quote Patrick Lencioni, “After a company has embedded its values into its systems, it should promote those values at every turn. It’s been said that employees will not believe a message until they’ve heard it repeated by executives seven times.”
But this doesn’t just mean hearing your CEO list the values in every company all-hands. Below are a few examples of how you can communicate company values in distributed settings:
Asynchronous channels such as email, wikis etc. can be used to explicitly bring up values at the individual, team or even company level. Critical to effectively communicating values on these channels is offering context.
For example, if one of your values is diligence, and your team has been careless about how they name files on the shared drive, use this as an opportunity to reinforce your values. We suggest sending an email to the team explaining how this negligence defies the value of diligence, and why it impacts your team collaboration. You may also want to share a few resources, or links to your team's shared drive naming structure.
Synchronous channels such as chat tools, video conferencing calls or meetings are also a great avenue for bringing up company values.
This Pyn article features a simple way of integrating values on your Slack platform. It recommends assigning and emoji to each of your values. If a team member championed a value, you can send them the emoji of the relevant value on the group channel, with a congratulatory message.
2. Recruiting with values in mind
Thought leaders Patrick Lencioni and Jim Collins believe values should be an essential part of hiring, and we do too. Having a team that embodies and espouses its values begins with hiring team members who believe in those values and can share moments when they demonstrated the virtues in the past.
In your interview process, we recommend including behavioral questions to learn about a candidates’ personal values. Amazon does that in their process; in each of their interviews, the recruiter includes questions about the 14 Amazon Leadership Principles, and behavioral questions about times the applicant had exhibited those values. For example, when probing about the value of learning and curiosity, they ask candidates to share a time when they influenced change by only asking questions.
More recently, Sonal Bahl, a Career Strategist and the Founder of Supercharge, gave an example of how to include values in the interview process in an episode of Centaur Stage Season 2. She recommends asking interviewees about what they think about something that happened in the news explaining how their reactions and perspectives are telling of what they value.
3. Integrating Values into the Onboarding Process
Onboarding processes and rituals offer a great opportunity to help new joiners learn about the organization’s values.
At Cosmic Centaurs, “Discipline” and “Community” are two of our values and our onboarding booklet includes our comprehensive email and documentation conventions, as well as examples of the team rituals we have and our buddy system. We set out to show just how our values are integrated into our ways of working even before someone has started producing with us.
Another opportunity to integrate values i the onboarding process is to inspire discussions about values in introductory team meetings. Typical introductions of team members include their hometown, role, what they do when they are not working, but we like to use this as a chance to spark a compelling conversation on values. We recommend including a question about the team value which means the most to a team member, or one that they recently observed in action. When employees share these perspectives with new joiners, they understand how aware everyone is of the values and how the virtues have been espoused.
We explore other ways of how values can be integrated into rituals towards the end of the article.
4. Team Meetings
Meetings, especially if they’re at a large scale like town halls or all-hands, offer a chance to reinforce the company’s values. When you are introducing the topic of the meeting, or sharing stories as you make your points, we recommend highlighting the relevant organizational values and how they were exhibited, or why they should be further embraced.
For example, if your meeting is to address conflict or to discuss a busy stressful week ahead, bringing up the values can be helpful in resolving a situation, reinforcing norms, camaraderie or accountability. In this instance, you can also bring up a time where the team exhibited (or did not exhibit) specific virtues and set clear standards and expectations on how the team should espouse values in certain situations.
5. Performance reviews
Values can also be a part of the performance review process. Gallup found the best managers focus on both the team member’s performance and on how to energize and motivate, making the values a relevant topic of conversation.
We recommend including values as part of your feedback process. This works as a two-way street: on one hand, by letting the team member know where they succeeded or failed at embodying the team’s values, and on the other hand, by asking them to share where the leadership or company might have successfully espoused or neglected your values. This will allow everyone to be better at acting in alignment with the values and virtues.
To learn more about how to run efficient performance reviews, check out this article.
Team rituals, whether they are daily stand-ups, retrospectives, or team time, are an opportunity to bring up the values and discuss how to put them into action.
Public recognition is one of the most effective methods of praise, especially when it comes from the top of the organization, according to Gallup. During a retrospective where team members are sharing feedback or even a daily standup, you can celebrate how a team member has lived up to a value in a particular situation. Not only does public recognition increase engagement and productivity, but it also reminds team members of how important values are.
One ritual we recently integrated is to use Cosmic Conversations, our prompt card conversation starter for teams in our recurring meetings. Two out of the four themes are about work and those conversations bring out many instances of team and company culture, including values. For example, one card we answered asked what we like the most about our organization. Our answers were different, but they all revolved around the same themes of striving for excellence, helping each other and working diligently - all of which are part of our virtues.
We hope this piece helped in learning more about how to integrate your team values in a variety of instances and communications of the team’s daily life.
If you need help in (re)defining, uncovering, and implementing your company values into your organization, get in touch.