And what that has done for our company.
Externally, core values distinguish a company’s identity, showing stakeholders and consumers what the company cares about and what unique value it offers. They are the guiding principles that define the culture and shape a dynamic team. A well-established identity increases a company’s competitive edge in the market and as an employer. Potential hires are able to determine whether a company’s values align with their own and whether they’re a good fit with the corporate culture. How well the company adheres to its core values demonstrates its integrity.
FBA was looking for core values that not only defined the company but also helped celebrate the best of each individual within the company. We wanted authentic values that were true to who we were, so we could highlight what our people were doing right, not what they should have been doing right. So, we committed ourselves to the prescription outlined by Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business and found that there was value in the process.
The Process and Development
Traction laid out a process for developing core values that was not only useful and practical but also inspiring and motivational. A key piece of the process was uncovering how we as individuals think about our work, our peers, and how we celebrate our best qualities. The book described the process as follows:
Each team member identifies people within the company who “would lead you to market domination” if you were able to fill the company with copies of those people.
Consider the names and the characteristics those people have that set them apart and make them drivers of productivity, positivity, or whatever it is that provides value to the team and company.
Narrow down the list by circling important characteristics, crossing out insignificant features, and combining similar elements.
Through discussion and debate, narrow the list down further to just three to seven characteristics that you can translate to values that the team agrees are genuinely core to your work.
After refining those values, “let them simmer” for about a month, and then meet again to finalize the list. Once finalized, create a presentation that illustrates each value with visual aids and supportive examples and use that presentation to communicate your values and their significance to the rest of the organization, as well as your external stakeholders.
We didn’t follow this prescription to the letter, but we committed ourselves to the process and made it work for our team. We started by brainstorming on a whiteboard, throwing out qualities we valued in members of our team. Some of us were introspective. Others were more client-focused.
We also provided the opportunity for individual brainwriting. Then, we looked for unique pieces that represented what we have, not necessarily what we need. Once we narrowed it down, each of us wrote our own version of the core values. Then, we started iterations until we reached what we have now.