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In this episode, Josh explores different methods that your organization can use to define and adapt your organization’s company values so that they are most reflective and representative of your organization as a whole.

Strategies for Creating Company Values

[00:04] Welcome to the Epic Company Culture podcast, where your host, Josh Sweeney, will give you, the business leaders, HR professionals, and company culture aficionados, the knowledge you need to take your company culture to the next level.

Josh: [00:16] Hello, my name is Josh Sweeney and welcome come to the Epic Company Culture podcast. Before I get started, I would like to thank Prototype Prime for this amazing podcasting space. Our topic for today is strategies for creating company values.

Creating Company Values

[00:32] Now beforehand, I’d like to state that I’ve kind of shied away a little bit from how to create company values because there are so many great articles on how to create company values out there, but we’d like to share as much as we can,give it to you in this audio format, so that you can listen to it in the car or wherever you need to and just give you hopefully some new approaches and ways to think about creating your company values and/or how to revamp them, refresh those for your organization.

[01:01] It’s a very common question that I get: How do we create these company values? What are the ways that this happens? The three overarching strategies that we have for this is what we would call the collaborative approach, the entrepreneur approach, or the entrepreneur decision, and then the leadership approach; and I’m going to dive down into each one of these.

Collaborating on Company Values

[01:21] When it comes to the collaborative approach, this is an organization that wants to get the rest of the team involved in coming together to help generate those company values. Now, I’m not going to advocate that you make this a democracy and all vote for these company values. That can be challenging in itself. It may work for you. You may find that your team is able to vote for them and come up with them, but there can be some challenges in getting everybody’s perspective ingrained in.

[01:50] What I’m going to advocate in the collaborative approach is leveraging the team’s knowledge and their feeling about what the company values are in the organization to come up with a short list that then you or the leadership can really use to solidify and group. How does this work?

[02:05] Well, the first way that we see it is with surveys. In the collaborative approach, we can create some surveys that go out to the team asking very pertinent questions. It can be direct as “Name the top five company values you think we should have,” or if you’re refreshing your company values, “What’s the one value that we have that you don’t think mirrors our company?” or any other very specific questions around coming up with a value. You may need to dig down and think into other ways to format and create those questions. But the survey format is the first one. We’re not going to get into all of the details today, but just think of surveys.

Brainstorming Company Values

[02:45] The next one is brainstorming sessions. You can get groups and sub-groups into a room and start to brainstorm on the values. If you’re refreshing them, you pull up the company values. You say what they mean, what the essence is behind your current  company values and try and dig into: is there a new one we should add? Is there one we should remove? Do these reflect us where we are now? Maybe the company has gone through an amazing growth period and those company values were stated early on but need a revamp. The brainstorming session is going to be one way to get together in a collaborative environment, figure out what those are depending on the size of the group and the size of the company.

[03:21] Now the other thing is, the goal is to really get to the core of who you are in those values. You’re going to use these values to reinforce decision-making. You’re going to use them to hire new people. You’re going to use them to come up with hiring and value questions during that hiring process. There are lots of ways that this is going to be used, so you really want to get to the core of who you are when you’re coming up with these values and using this collaborative approach.

[03:50] In reviewing the data from whether it’s surveys or brainstorming or any other methodology in the collaborative approach, the most important thing is going to be looking for commonalities. One way that I’ve seen this as an exercise in a room is everybody’s writing these values on sticky notes and then you’re actually moving those sticky notes in order to group them into certain segments, because people are going to use different language to describe a common theme; so, you can group those and see what are those biggest groupings. “Well, I have fifty sticky notes over here in this group on a value, an overarching theme, but I only have two over here.”

[04:25] That gives you a visual way to see how your values that you’re coming up with are represented on a wall, and then you narrow that down into that grouping and you come up with a name for that grouping or a value based on that grouping. That’s one way that we see it. Maybe another way is just going to be to use any sort of technology to group those. You can do the same thing with sticky notes, but what I really want to get at is use that collaborative system. Utilize the employees that you have and all of the minds in the business in this approach in order to come up with values that truly reflect your organization.

[05:01] This is fundamentally different from the second theme or strategy that we can take, which is the entrepreneur-led business. If this is a smaller business, maybe this is just getting off the ground, maybe there are only five employees and you want to set the tone early, then they’re going to be used in a different way.

[05:17] This is an entrepreneur deciding on those values. If you’re starting the business and it’s just you as an entrepreneur, those values are going to reflect who you are at the core and the types of people that you want to hire in that environment. You may have to revisit those in the future, but you’re going to get along most easily with people that are like you for your first few new hires, and so you want to find people that are moving fast, kicking butt, taking names and really fit into that ultra-small entrepreneur, startup-style environment.

[05:51] So, what are some ways that you can utilize who you are? Well, you can look at your values and your tendencies. What are the things that you naturally do and how do they fit into your values? What are the themes of the books that you read? If you’re reading non-fiction and you’re going to certain books or certain videos, maybe you just naturally are pulled to certain video styles and certain presentation styles. What is the essence of that? What are their values? What are they communicating?

[06:20] For me, there’s a couple of things that I like to call out and these are kind of probably the more, I guess, hardcore side of a lot of the things I do and that tenacious type of nature that I have, but ‘Relentless’, a book from Tim S. Grover is one that I really love. I look at the values that he has on being relentless and going above and beyond and how you pick the people. How do you pick the Michael Jordans and the top team members and what are the values that they have, what do they exhibit? So, that book was something that really resonated with me, so I could dig into that book and say, “What does that say about me and what kind of values do I need to put into place?”

[07:05] Another example is the ‘Extreme Ownership’, from Jocko Willink. Extreme ownership is one that we took from that book and we created as a value, but that really exhibits me. I read that book, it resonated, and I said, “That’s a value.” So, I dug deep in order to understand my tendencies.

[07:17] Another way to do it that’s really helpful is with video. Watching Grant Cardone videos and 10X and seeing some of the concepts. Some people don’t prefer his personality and I’m not saying that I even have that same personality, it’s just some of the concepts that he exhibits in the way that he thinks about things that resonated, like the 10X factor that he uses and that we’ve carried into our values.

[07:41] Another example, Gary Vaynerchuk, direct, candid, maybe not candid in a way that I’m going to use in corporate communications in the style that I have, but a candidness and an openness about beliefs and how things should get done.

[07:59] So, those are the different ways that you can use video in order to understand what are the undertones, what are the styles and values of this person and what do you want to take away that resonates most with you in order to set the values of the organization that you’re building as an entrepreneur.

Leadership Generated Company Values

[08:15] So, we’ve talked a little bit about the collaborative approach, we’ve talked about the entrepreneur approach, and then we also have the leadership team approach. I think this is more of an approach for mid- to larger-sized businesses. Maybe it’s an approach for companies that have a culture that’s more of a top-down leadership style.

[08:31] The challenge with the collaborative approach, which is a little bit of the inverse, is that you get a lot of information. You get a lot of extra detail and maybe it just doesn’t align or maybe the culture of the company isn’t what you want it to be now and in the new values you are going to reinforce where you’re going and what you want to be in the future. With the leadership team approach, this is more of that leadership brainstorming. You’re bringing the decision-makers in the organization together to create and decide what are those company values going to be or how are we going to adapt the company values we have to where we’re going and the new culture we’re building or the types of people that we want to bring in.

[09:09] That’s a little bit easier in some respects. It’s not as many ideas that you would get in the collaborative because you just have less people involved, but it is also easier to come to a conclusion on what those company values are going to be because you have a smaller group of decision-makers to make that decision.

[09:28] In closing, I want you to think about what your company values are, whether they match who you are now and/or where you’re going, and what are the different strategies you can take to either set those company values or revamp them when the time arises.

[09:44] Thank you for tuning in to today’s episode of the Epic Company Culture podcast with Josh Sweeney. If you enjoyed this content, please subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher. For additional content and transcripts, visit epicculture.co. If you have questions or topics you would like us to address or expand on, tweet us @epicculture1 or email at podcast@epicculture.co.