Written by Technically Media CEO Chris Wink, Technical.ly’s culture builder The newsletter contains tips on growing strong teams and vibrant workplaces. Below is the latest edition we have published. Sign up to get the next one.
Company values are something you might think you need, but don’t necessarily know why.
This summer, teams will participate in team retreats or leadership summits to define these values. Far fewer will do anything about them. Only 10% of companies set corporate values and put them into practice, according author Brene Brown.
It’s a major missed opportunity, says MaryBeth Hyland, the author of last year’s book.Permission to be human: the conscious leader’s guide to creating a values-driven culture.”
“People think you can go on a ‘values retreat’ and then tick that box,” Hyland told me. She likes that companies “operationalize” values, a clumsy way of saying an important thing: know what defines your team and build systems to stay focused on them.
What is the history of the company’s visions, mission statements and values?
The company values are modern creations, although the idea of distilling central themes is old. They are usually associated with and flow directly from the rise of mission and value statements.
- A die earliest known modern mission statements was established in 1941 by the American Journal of Economics and Sociology, although it remains a relatively obscure tool;
- In the 1960s, the company retired to establish a “vision of the future” became popular;
- In the 1970s, management consultant Peter Drucker advised leaders to define a company’s purpose and mission;
- A 1983 book called “Planning for Organizational Success” described “mission analysis”;
- A 1994 Wall Street Journal article reported that “fifty percent of large companies have mission statements now, twice as many as five years ago”, saying they are “fast becoming the latest management craze”.
Over the past 20 years, vision, mission and values have been codified into a standard trio. The vision is the reason your business exists. The mission is what you do to achieve that vision. And your values are “how you go about doing this job,” Hyland said.
To live up to your company’s values, she stresses in her book that leaders must “know, own, and live” them. Most companies get to know them, with the help of a post-it-filled team exercise.
To own them, Hyland says organizations must support corporate values with behaviors. What does it mean to be innovative? What decision does a teammate know they would make to fit an organizational value?
For example, Mike Krupit, a longtime technical executive and leadership coach, shared with me a long list of specific behaviors intended to support the values of the early Web company Infonautics of the 1990s, where he cut his teeth.
One of this company’s values was “integrity,” and the company had several simple, specific behaviors to back this up, including, “Never offer an offer we wouldn’t accept ourselves.”
Hyland says this answers the question, “How do we get a common language for our value words?”
As leadership guru Simon Sinek said: Values multiplied by behavior equals team culture. How does a company live these values? Hyland’s book is full of specific examples.
How to put your company values into action
Launch a semi-regular “values alignment survey” in which employees are asked to rank how well company values are upheld at the organizational, team, and individual level. (She advises doing this anonymously.)
Look at every key stage of employee engagement—job descriptions, interviews, performance reviews, all-team meetings, and offshoring—and ask yourself: How do our values show up?
“Your values have to be involved in everything,” she said.
At Technical.ly, we match specific employee behaviors to our specific value words in a monthly all-team meeting. They showed up elsewhere, but Hyland reminded me that we could do a lot more.
“We can have deeper conversations when we use values as a lens,” Hyland said. “It’s clarifying and powerful.”