Company values. Integrity. Hard work. Collaboration. Respect. Excellence. Customer service.
We’ve definitely all come across a business that proudly espouses these somewhere on their website. I’m not sure how or when, but somewhere along the way, company values became a seemingly ubiquitous request as part of a client’s branding package. And we’re glad they have, because a lot of them need help.
I’m not a values hater—in fact, I think a really well-composed set of values can go a long way to help define a brand. The problem is that many attempts to shape a corporate culture with a set of values wind up a clump of meaningless clichéd words. If you really want to carve out a slice of individuality for your brand, why dip into the same pool of words everybody else is using?
The Value of Values
A solid set of values can help shape and guide your company culture, which as we’ve discussed in other blogs is incredibly important for both employees and consumers. They inspire your team to do their best because their effort is rooted in a cause that goes beyond the day-to-day work. And for consumers, a truthful and socially aware brand is just as important as the product or service they produce.
Look no further than our pals at Trading Technologies for an example of values that shape a company culture in a meaningful way. Their four values are concise, specific and they speak to how they actually conduct their work.
Maybe you’re thinking “my culture is fine, updating my values won’t change it.” If you’re motivated by nothing else, be motivated by this: generic company values make you look like every other brand on the block. They strip your identity down and waste a great opportunity to give people insight into what makes your brand different.
According to Patrick M. Lencioni at Harvard Business Review, “55% of all Fortune 100 companies claim integrity is a core value, 49% espouse customer satisfaction, and 40% tout team-work.” While those are all great qualities, they’re hardly going to set you apart from the pack.
If you’ve decided it’s time to dig into creating some really epic values, first you need to figure out where you’re at now. Take a look at the four main categories as laid out by Lencioni and think about where your current values fit in:
- Core values are the deeply ingrained principles that guide all of a company’s actions; they serve as its cultural cornerstones.
- Aspirational values are those that a company needs to succeed in the future but currently lacks.
- Permission-to-play values simply reflect the minimum behavioral and social standards required of any employee.
- Accidental values arise spontaneously without being cultivated by leadership and take hold over time.
Think about these closely. Have you fallen prey to those generic, permission-to-play values? Are your values all aspirational, but not really representing your environment as it is today? If you’ve found a major imbalance, that’s okay! That just means a great opportunity to engage with your team.
Take some time to think about the specific way your team approaches challenges and celebrates wins–there’s a good chance your true values are lurking in that situation somewhere. And as Lencioni says, be aggressively authentic—a point we agree with so much, it’s number one on our very own company manifesto, below.
The process of crafting your company values, while potentially difficult, will ultimately illuminate truths about your brand—good and bad. It’s a springboard to get on track with your goals and build a culture that is rewarding and motivating.
And of course, if you’re having trouble finding the right words to capture your brand, we’re always happy to help! Drop us a line to learn more.