If you know anything about me or There be Giants, then (hopefully) you know us for being pretty straight-down-the-line, we don’t do flowery or fluffy.

So, why am I taking the time to talk about values? They are the fluffiest of the fluffy right?

Well, I’d argue that values have a hard edge to them, particularly if you design them into how you define what high performance is, and how you evaluate it.  I’ve just finished work with a client who I helped define and embed their first set of shared values, and the whole process has been one of their most profound in their eight-year history.

I’ve been spurred on by the experience to put ‘finger-to-keyboard’ and I’ll share my thoughts over this blog, and the next one.

All too often, our experience of values is a poster on the wall or a page on a website. That’s ok, as long as our experience backs up those claims.  If it doesn’t, then our suspicions are raised and trust begins to erode.  If you’re a candidate, you could be questioning if you should take that other role you’ve been offered and if you’re a customer, you could be hitting Google to find an alternative.

Embedding is how you make sure they don’t stay on the poster

I’ll talk about embedding in my next blog but for now, let’s take a moment to look at where values fit in.

‘Behaviours’ have pretty much been where businesses have focussed when wanting to help their people ‘how’ they would like them to do all the challenges they’ve been set in their goals/objectives (that’s the ‘what’).  The problem with just working with behaviours is that you’re only at surface level.  You see, behaviours are driven by beliefs, and they are driven by values.  So, if you really want to get to the nub of ‘how’ you need to start with values.

When TBG helps a client reengineer their performance management, we always challenge to build in their ‘how’.  If ‘teamwork’ is one of your values and you have someone who is ruthless in the pursuit of their own goals, then chances are that’s not going to be a happy and fruitful marriage.  I’ve seen salespeople who have closed the deal at whatever the cost, pocketed the commission, left and then 6-12 months later, the deal has unravelled because of something they agreed to.  Bad business, full stop.

So where do you start?

At TBG we love data-driven decisions, and designing the right set of values for your business should not be any different!  No matter how large or small your business is.

Step 1 – meausre

We use a number of survey-based tools to measure the culture you have (in terms of values within it), and how your people would like your culture to be.  They also look at an aggregation of the individual values across the business too, so you can really dig into how closely aligned what shows up each day is, with what everyone experiences and wants.  The tools we use are the ones from the ‘Barrett Values Centre’, which are the best we’ve found yet.  They will even put a % value on the negative/unproductive energy in your culture so you can measure progress against it – how cool is that???

Oh, and if you already have some values, the tools can even measure how present they are too.

Step 2 – consult

Now you have your critical three (what’s positive, what people would like to see more of and what they’d like to see less of). It’s time for managers to talk to their teams.  This is important as it will tease out any mismatches in understanding (accountability could mean something completely different to front-line folk than it does to a senior exec team).  Knowing these helps to get to the nub of what the critical three really mean to people.

A recent client reported that these were the best team/manager conversations they’d had in a long time, and unearthed so much that they were going to run something similar every six months from then on!  It also helped them to identify a number of people projects which were needed, which fed into their plan for the next twelve months.

The output from these needs to be an aggregation of themes from the conversations which feed into the next stage.

Step 3 – design

This works best if it’s done by a cross-section working group of about 6-7 folk.  A good mix of locations, seniority and perspective really helps, oh and get a good wordsmith in it too.

Spend the first session working through the themes from step 2 and headlines from step 1, with the aim of arriving at three (absolute maximum 4!!) values.  Any more, and they will not be remembered; recall is what you’re aiming for as that shows people have them logged.

In the time between session one and two, the group has some homework to draft up definitions for the chosen three, which they then share and debate.  While I’m writing this as a linear process, it’s often anything but, so be prepared to go back and forth as new insights emerge and revisions happen.

It’s important that the recommended values from the working party are put to the senior team for final approval.  This gives them chance to add in anything which might be needed to support future plans and ambitions, which the wider workforce might not have sight of.

Step 4 – launch

Now you have your values, it’s time to let them loose, and this should be done with a shout, not a whimper.

An ‘all-hands with everyone’ sends the message that you take them seriously.  I’ve seen this work really well when stories are told for each value – each a really strong example of where it’s been done extremely well.  This makes them far more relatable.

Also, be prepared to talk about how you’re going to embed them, the action the senior team have already taken to do their bit and where and how everyone else will get their chance to play their part.  All this to follow in my next blog post……

If you’re curious about how values can help your teams achieve even higher performance, then why not have a quick call with me?

Just click HERE to set one up


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