I once walked into the office of a potential client and saw a beautiful wall display of five core values behind the receptionist’s desk. As I waited for my appointment, I mentioned to the receptionist, “those are amazing core values… what a great guide for employees and customers”. Her response? “Oh those? We don’t really use them…our boss saw them on the wall of another company and thought they were cool, so he had me put them on our wall.”
It is one thing to showcase your company’s core values and quite another to instill those core values into your culture. So, how do organizations “operationalize" their values? How can we ensure our values transform into the day-to-day work culture we want to see?
A Values-Centered Entrepreneur
One of The Resultants' core values is “Fearless Leadership” so let’s use that as an example. First, let's define what it means to us.
There are leaders and then there are fearless leaders. The fearlessness happens when an individual uses his/her values to drive through the challenges and issues faced every day. We believe everyone has fearless leadership in them… they just may not know it. To find it, you have to dig deep to uncover that inner strength which gives you the courage to act.
Values are your driving force to fearlessness. They are the compass that point our team in a direction we know we can rely on when making decisions. Most important, we want to be able to sleep at night. I don’t believe good leaders can be non-confrontational. There has to be a level of confidence and competence supporting fearless leadership. It’s not for the weak of heart.
Steps to Operationalize
So now that we have a clear definition of this one core value, our team has a much higher chance of being on the same page with company expectations. Unfortunately, an understanding is not enough. The defining value must be overcommunicated which begins the steps to “operationalizing”. How many ways can we repeat, reinforce, and reward values-based behavior?
Articulate the value or belief. Define it on paper. Then list the types of behavior you expect when it comes to demonstrating that value within your unique environment. Let’s go back to fearless leadership: here is what differentiates us from others when it comes to this core value:
Fearless leadership is about meeting others where they’re at while holding true to why we were brought together: to build strong leadership teams.
Fearless leadership means seizing the moment within a team meeting to voice the “elephant in the room”. We do this by reading the room and positioning the right questions at the right time.
Fearless leadership means digging deep within our inner strength so we can avoid getting pressured by the strongest person within the group.
Fearless leadership means making decisions in the best interest of the organization based on our values and our why.
The leaders of the organization must apply fearless leadership daily. Their actions let other team members know just how fearless we can be. Leaders should regularly take stock by reviewing their actions as to how well they’ve upheld the core value. If leaders cannot apply the core value in work life, then this is not a value you can have.
Every stakeholder must understand the core value as well. That means we 1) share our beliefs with employees, clients, business advisors, new hires, vendors, preferred partners, and 2) we base relationship decisions on that values alignment.
Values are discussed and reviewed during recruitment times, employee onboarding, and formal performance reviews. We give feedback to each other during 1:1 conversations.
Values are included on surveys, shared at state of the company all hands meetings, and reviewed consistently at quarterly and annual sessions. This may seem redundant, but it is not. Someone from your team will more than likely offer a perspective that requires reaffirming or reassessing a point.
Team members evaluate each other on the core values by recognizing individuals when someone acts out a value in a positive way. We find specific actions and tie our recognition to that behavior.
Make it a point to talk about our core values and regularly review our definitions to make sure we are communicating expectations in the best way possible.
It takes time and effort to go beyond the words on the wall or your website’s home page to instill your core values into the lifeblood of your organization. Operationalizing values is a game changer. It must be intentional so if it seems like a daunting project, you may want to make it a strategic goal. Once it becomes a part of the operations, it changes your culture, but someone must lead the charge (there you go… fearless leadership again). Start slow, by applying one core value to some of these steps and over time, I know you will see the difference.
Rebuilding Your Roadmap to Success
2021 isn’t over just yet but you should be starting to think about how you can reset and rebuild in 2022. There are many factors to take into consideration when setting your long-term goal especially after a year of disruption. Enter the Value Builder System™, a methodology consisting of eight key levers of company value you can push and pull to significantly increase the value of your company.
Find out where your company sits by taking the Value Builder Questionnaire.