It’s time we talk about your values.

How many times have you heard about a company’s mission, vision, and values (MVV)?

If you’ve been an entrepreneur for any amount of time these terms either hit home or make you groan. Admittedly, most of us are in the latter camp. A result of one too many lame ball attempts from companies touting an MVV birthed in a sweaty corporate boardroom.

Start With Why by Simon Sinek is one of the best books I’ve read that deconstructs the importance of creating your MVV from an authentic place.

If you haven’t read it — stop reading this post now, go get the book and knock it out this weekend. I guarantee you will not regret it.

He makes the simple point that we must be operating our businesses from a deeper foundation that will inspire others.

A genuine and powerful MVV construct shares this inspirational DNA.

There are endless books on the topic that explore how a meaningful MVV (or equivalent derivative) aligns organizations. Today I want to narrow in on one aspect of this alignment specifically about values.

When I first heard about company values, I admit, I thought it was a joke.

We are all individuals and how can someone expect an entire workforce to conform under the banner of a few catch words or phrases. I see this same strategy at my daughter’s elementary school with words like teamworktrustand friendship hanging from the gymnasium walls.

As an impressionable 10 year old, the strategy is to mold their young minds with timeless character traits, but what about at the corporate level when we are dealing with adults?

The mistake I made was believing corporate values are also there to influence. Somehow values act as a hall monitor to enforce good behavior.

Turns out I was terribly wrong.

Simply put if you have someone within your organization that doesn’t abide by and/or support the corporate values, you are already too late.

At my previous agency I retroactively tried to apply value systems to existing employees. Time and time again I was disappointed. Was there something wrong with my staff? Absolutely not. What I didn’t get (and now understand much better) is that values are your decision making filter at the front end. They are the bouncer at the nightclub managing the door. Once someone is in though, the ball is in your court, for better or for worse.

Without clear values, there are no rules, standards or basis for decision making. Everyone gets into the club! This can make for an interesting party, but it won’t last very long before someone spills their cosmo and gets upset.

At Design Pickle our values are friendly, resourcefulness, smart-working and service. I will say though, I lucked out. I was able to create these values at the very beginning before I had any customers or staff. My values bouncer has been at the party before anyone could get in.

With these values, I run my decisions through them. The process creates a nice check and balance across the entire company.

  • New candidate — How do they fit with the values?
  • New revenue stream — How does it fit with the values?
  • Marketing opportunity — How does it fit with the values?

Even our clients need to value our values to a certain extent otherwise they won’t be a good fit in the long run.

Values are the foundational filter for all future decisions.

How do you create your values? Start with why. Why are you doing what you are doing? Once you have an answer for that build your values around the things that will help you accomplish your why better than anyone else. No need to take more than a few hours at the local coffee shop if you’re just getting started.

Once the values are outlined, sleep on it, share it with some key people in your business and slowly start to roll it out. Some people will love it, some people will groan, but over time you’ll start to see how things measure up to your new values.

What happens when you look back and realize a lot of undesirable folks got into your party the new value bouncer would have rejected?

Kick them out!

People, decisions, suppliers, partners and whoever or whatever else that doesn’t jive with your values will ruin the party. They need to shape up or go ASAP.

This will be the hardest part of the entire process, but unless you start from zero like I did, then there’s no other way for values to take a strong enough hold to proliferate through your organization.

This post was originally published on Medium

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