Defining Your Values

I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago as a way to open-source our process for defining our core values and then quite literally I was thumbing through Twitter last night and scrolled past this post from Fast Company entitled – “No One Cares About Your Logo” – that was in fact, a post from 2018…but rather timeless in its message. It was exactly the reminder I needed right before publishing this post…

“Great brands are built from the inside out; they are built around a strong belief system and are driven by values.”

You see…I always felt that it was important to build a company that was focused on the happiness of our team and their personal growth. So many times, I have read posts about emotional and personal wellness and the positive impacts on a company when people are refreshed and engaged. Eventually, I’ll get around to writing more about ways I have experimented with this over the years but first, VALUES. Core values are critical to every company…and not the core values that say we have the cleanest bathrooms and they clearly have not been touched since Y2K. No…real, actionable values.

This post is both a reminder of the importance of defining your values…but also the practical steps that we took in defining our company values. I realized before writing this post, that I had read so much from others in my own development…that you too might find it helpful in seeing the process we undertook over a nine-month period to redefine our core values at Access Ventures.

In the early days of Access Ventures (probably like many other founders) I drafted the initial values for the company. I definitely spent some time writing them out, and they truly did reflect things I thought were important to Access Ventures…and to me.

As our team grew, my desire was to embed these values deeper into the actions of our team. I began to research other organizations and how they went about a refresh of their core value because…our core values are the ideals we refuse to compromise as we conduct our mission in pursuit of our vision. In every organization, they are underlying every action and every decision. An organization’s values can be the filter in determining what fits the function of that team, and what does not. They can be a litmus test for what to take on…and what to leave alone.

And in my research, I came to realize that the best values are collaboratively determined and that the truest shared values are collectively assessed from personal values.

Assessing Personal Values

Every person has values and principles that govern their lives – that help them in making decisions and in determining what matters for them. Colin Powell is well known for having shared his “13 Life Rules for any Future Leader” and at Access Ventures we ask every team member to write out several principles that they feel govern their lives and their decisions. We ask them to return to these annually as they evaluate their own life goals and professional development goals. In starting out on this journey of refining our company values we first started here. We had everyone update their own life principles. As an example, here are my life principles (I print them and put them on my wall next to my computer for constant viewing):

  1. Presence – preference people over tasks. Show up. Your presence conveys priority.
  2. DO SOMETHING – Even if it is wrong. “Vision without execution is hallucination.” – Edison
  3. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  4. Expect what you inspect.
  5. Be proactive – situational awareness and decisive engagement [OODA].
  6. Having vision and being disciplined are 2-sides of the same coin and driven by one’s purpose.
  7. Don’t allow lack of creativity or naysayers to stand in your way – it can be done…so figure out a way.
  8. Humility & Service are the marks of leadership: share credit, properly align incentives for self and team, and “use people to build your business or use your business to build people”
  9. Never be satisfied but always thankful.
  10. DO HARD THINGS (take risks..sin boldly – Martin Luther)
  11. Remember that everyone is going through difficult things in life – extend grace.
  12. Never bemoan your position and never use your position to belittle others. Recognize your privilege and use every opportunity to better others.
  13. Life is more than what you do, but not less than it either – sacred/secular is a myth whose time has come.

Next…we did a simple survey and asked team members two questions…

How would you define Access Ventures’ core values?

What do you appreciate most about Access Ventures?

Unearthing Shared Values

We then took all of this into a team retreat a couple of months later and the purpose of the retreat was to refine these personal values and collectively surface our new corporate team values.

We did a sprint exercise with both individual and small group work to distill all of this down into what would be the start of some rough draft core values.

Following the retreat, we sent out another team survey for each person to vote on their favorite core values.

I then noticed some patterns in what was coming together and grouped the Top 10 statements and wrote out some initial statements to go with each of the values.

I then took these to another team retreat and we spent a couple hours honing these statements. In order for us to activate these core values individually, as a team, and as a company, we wrote 4-7 short explanations for each value. What resulted were our core values. Since developing them, we have amended our semi-annual reviews to assess each persons actions against these values; we seek to ensure the projects we take on are in line with these core values; and we even reward team members based upon their demonstration of these core values. One small way we do this is at our weekly team happy hour. Each week, we give 2 $25 Amazon gift cards to random team members and ask that they give them to some member of the team for exhibiting one of the core values. It’s a great way to have every team member participate in recognition and to remind everyone of the values on a weekly basis.

Here are the values we refreshed…I’m sure we will come back to them and adjust them as time passes, but for now, they are our team ideals. These are the things we hope are experienced every day by our partners as we work in the community. As always…we are lifelong learners…drop a comment or shoot me an email if you have ideas on how we might improve this process in the future. Values are not static, but adaptive – just like the people who wrote them 😉

This article was originally published on Bryce Butler’s Substack, More Than ProfitSubscribe to be the first to access new articles.

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