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Define Your Firm’s Values for Employees

Values are beliefs that are shared among the stakeholders and employees of an organization. They drive an organization's culture and priorities, and provide a framework in which decisions are made. Examples of values include the following:

  • “Innovation is the cornerstone of everything we do.”

  • “Collaboration is the hallmark of our culture.”

If you want your people to behave in a certain way or produce specific outcomes, you have to define, communicate, and then model those behaviors and outcomes. The same is true for your core values. In order for your people to live and embody them, three critical actions must occur:

  • Your leadership team must define and commit to a set of four to eight core values. These values should represent the “rules of the tavern,” or the organizational behaviors you most value.

    If your company has no stated values, the leadership team should begin with a short list of key values that they believe are representative, such as innovation, collaboration, respect, teamwork, fun, quality, service, creativity, and so on. This short list should be sent out to employees with a request that they rank them.

  • The agreed-upon values should be communicated on an ongoing basis. A fun way to do this is to have employees use their smartphones to film their interpretation of your values. Post the top videos on your intranet page or perhaps even choose a winner and showcase his or her video on YouTube or on your firm's website.

  • If you're going to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. Make sure that whatever values you identify, your leadership team lives them daily.

When articulating their values, some organizations are able to inject their own personalities. For example, the e-commerce firm Zappos espouses the following values:

  • Deliver WOW Through Service

  • Embrace and Drive Change

  • Create Fun and A Little Weirdness

  • Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded

  • Pursue Growth and Learning

  • Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication

  • Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit

  • Do More With Less

  • Be Passionate and Determined

  • Be Humble

On a more traditional level, you can see the power of simplicity of the Kellogg Company’s values: Integrity, Accountability, Passion, Humility, Simplicity, and Results.

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