We hate to say it but we’ve seen a lot of bad company values over the years. Not bad as in evil, but bad as in they’re not really values at all. Great company values are clear, actionable, unique to how your company operates differently and are used as decision-making filters every day (yes, every day!). It’s not always easy to find what your company values are but here are some rookie mistakes that you should avoid:
1. They’re too generic
Do you have the word ‘leadership’ as one of your values? Or how about ‘trust’? Or ‘engagement’? The problem with generic core values is that they’re not specific to how you’re different - as a company or in your industry. If you walk into a bank and see the core value ‘integrity’ on the wall, wouldn’t you assume every bank should have integrity? But there still must be a reason you’ve chosen your bank and there’s something that makes them better than the rest
2. They’re part of what every company needs
Similar to being too generic sometimes companies use basic practices as core values, for example ‘teamwork’ or ‘excellent customer service’. These are better used in your handbook than as a value everyone should abide by. There are exceptions though, for example ‘excellent customer service’ could be described as ‘get in their shoes’, this could be followed with a description that tells your team to imagine themselves as the customer, to have empathy, to feel their pain and to help resolve their problems as if they were their own. Now that’s a value!
3. They’re not actionable
One-word values leave too much to the imagination. If you tell your team your value is ‘creativity’, then what does that actually mean? Should they be creative in their problem solving or spend 5 hours a day daydreaming about new inventions? Unless you’re specific, employees could interpret this in many different ways, and while they might think they are aligned with your values, they could be far off from what you actually meant.
4. They’re long and confusing
The other extreme from short, one-word values, are rambling values. If your value is longer than a paragraph - STOP! There are certainly places where you can describe your values in different ways - for your team members, for your customers, for your vendors - but the essence of the value should be short and easily understood by anyone who reads it.
5. They contradict each other
Do you have both ‘teamwork’ and ‘independence’ as values? While somewhat contradicting values might not always be wrong, it’s important to explain how they’re used so you don’t confuse people. If one of your values seems to contradict another value, take a look and see if you really believe in both values or if one is more aligned with how your company operates than the other.
6. No one looks at them or knows what they are
The biggest taboo when it comes to values is not sharing them or living by them. Your values might have been developed by a firm that spent months on them and you loved everything about them when you came up with them but then they got exiled to a lonely Word doc deep on the server. It’s a shame when values aren’t fulfilled to their full potential. If you do have values that you haven’t looked at for a while, pull them out and use our nifty sheet teaching you ‘How to align your team with your Purpose and Core Values’.
So dust off your values, review them, question them and make sure they align with your company. If you need help check out our free tools or setup a complimentary consultation for us to review them.