A Quick Way To Identify Your Organization’s Values

I want to share a quick way to identify your organization’s values. First, let’s get on the same page. What’s an “organizational value”? I believe the easiest way to understand values is through the lens of behaviors. Values manifest as behaviors. For instance, if your organization has the value of “kindness,” then your words and actions should be kind. If your team doesn’t consistently act with kindness, then it is not really an organizational value.

This behavioral approach is helpful when trying to identify or update your organization’s values. You don’t need to pull them out of thin air during a white boarding session, you just look at how your best people behave.

Identify Your Organization’s Values

So here’s the quick and dirty way to establish company values, step by step. I’ve done this many times with organizations of all sizes and I’m always impressed by how effectively it creates clarity.

  1. Get 4-6 people in a room. This could be some board members, leadership team, or people across the organization. I’ve mostly worked with board members and leaders and they usually jump right in.
  2. Identify 6-8 people in the organization, but not in the room, that you would like to “clone”. By “clone” I mean people you would re-hire many times over. For instance; “I would love to clone Sally, she just owns everything we put on her plate.”
  3. Go through each person and identify their attributes. For instance “courageous,” “kind,” “curious,” etc.
  4. Identify the top 6-8 attributes that consistently show up.
  5. Combine and narrow the 6-8 into 3-4 values. I strongly recommend having 5 or less values. It is very hard for people to remember more than 5 things and you want the organization’s values tattooed on everyone’s brains.
  6. Socialize the 3-4 values with other team members to get feedback.
  7. Have the CEO/ED/Leadership finalize them and present them with 1-2 sentence definitions to the full company.

Keep in mind that this is just the beginning. You need to make sure they stick. To do that I suggest you institutionalize your values by embedding them into your organization. From HR to marketing, your values should always shine through every interaction, internally and externally. But that’s another blog post…

RELATED: Turn Board Members Into Mission Advocates


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