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How to define values

Don’t make the mistake of quickly picking values from a long list of words because they sound good.

Instead, look inside yourself and others you believe live the values. Consider creating a focus group of 6 to 12 people who may or may not be part of the management team. It’s vital you know they portray the type of values you want everyone else to live by.

Give everyone 25 white cards and get them to write down the answers that comes to mind with this question: what behavioural attributes are important and which are unique to working here?

Give everyone 10 to 15 minutes and encourage them to write as many answers as possible. Explain that there are no write or wrong answers. If t is just one to two people you are looking for 25 to 50 ideas, a bigger group may produce 100.

To encourage people to think ask the question as a negative: What behavioural attributes do we not want at working here? When you have enough cards put them all face up and start to create groups.

You have have half a dozen themes. Keep all cards face up, don’t stake them even if the same words are used. Choose one word or concept for each group.

This becomes a core value which you can define as a group selecting the best terminology.

Checking your values

Check to ensure your values are right by running them through this checklist:

  • Will each value help you make difficult decisions?
  • Are your core values memorable?
  • Does each value represent distinct elements of our culture?
  • Will you be willing to uphold these values outside the business?
  • Are your values congruent with the behaviour of management?
  • Can your organisation hold up these values in challenging times?
  • Are you willing to defend these values ?

When you believe your values pass the test get half a dozen key customers to give you some feedback. They may have insights you cannot come up with yourself and you need to ensure the wording supports your branding.

Now, build in questions into your recruitment and personal development reviews.

Image from Flickr by Nichole Burrows.

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