In my last article, What Are Your Core Principles?, we offered some guidelines for defining your personal values. Now, let’s dive into determining your business core values!
The values for your business may line up close to those on your personal list. The reason we have to begin the process again is that unless you are a solopreneur, there are other stakeholders who need to be considered.
What are business values? As with your personal values, they remain constant in any situation and should provide you with a filter on all of the decisions you make. Your values should help you determine who to hire onto your team, who you choose to serve, and how you do it. Because they are so central to decision making, you need to get buy-in from the rest of the team to ensure that they represent the entire team and not just you as the leader.
If you already have a previous list of business core values, then you’re off to a great start. Are they well known throughout the organization? Could each team member say most or all of them? Do they resonate with you? Are there any that feel ‘off’? You can use this data as a guide for the conversation below.
Bring your leadership team together in an open format and ask them to describe what they believe should go into the organizational constants. Use a whiteboard or large screen to ask questions and write as they discuss. During this phase, write everything down and make sure everyone has the opportunity to speak up and be heard.
Once you’ve done that, start pruning. Start with any common themes that can be linked together into the same concept. For example, honesty, integrity, and truth-telling are all shades of the same idea. Be sure to define whatever term you use to bring similar ideas together. If there are ideas that don’t seem quite right, ask the suggester to describe in detail why they feel strongly about the idea. Encourage discussion among the whole team. During the discussion, you can usually find an element of the concept that the group can build on.
Keep going to refine, reduce, and get specific. When you end up with your list of roughly 4-10 values, be sure to settle on the definitions and sum up the list as a whole. You need to walk out of this process with a united leadership team who will carry these values with them.
The final step is to present the values to the rest of your team, ideally all in one sitting. Talk about the values as a narrative and use examples of how they represent the best of the team and what living by them means to the organization.
Now that you have your values articulated and shared, start using them. Use them in discussions. Use them in decision making. Use them in hiring and firing. They are a powerful tool, but only if you use them.