How to Develop Corporate Values When Leading a Small Team

By Harvard Business Review
May 23, 2018

Thoughtful, well-implemented values can serve as the foundation for a positive, high-performance culture. Establishing them is easier before the team grows. 

Developing your corporate values early in your company’s history can have a lasting and positive effect on your organization and its culture, and it’s easier to do when your team is small. Once your team grows larger, it might be challenging to reach consensus around what your values should be.

Here’s how to get started:

Develop your corporate values together. Drafting a values statement in a silo and then mandating the team follow it is rarely effective.

Give staff the opportunity to contribute thoughtfully. Ask all team members to think about questions such as: What do you value? What unspoken values have contributed to our success to date? What values do successful employees share?

Get all ideas out there, then organize them. List all the potential values on a whiteboard. Once you are out of suggestions, ask everyone to independently select their top 10 values and rank them in order of importance.

Collaboratively identify a shortlist of values. Compare your lists and assign points to each value depending on their place on the list. Use the point sums to create a short list. A final list might be determined by top executives.

Discuss interpretation. Understanding what your chosen values mean is critical to implementation. Try to synthesize your shared understanding into clear, direct explanations of how you will experience and live those values in the workplace.

Integrate your values. Look for ways that you can integrate values into hiring practices, orientation and onboarding, performance bonuses and promotion opportunities. Allow your values to evolve over time.

Thoughtful, well-implemented values can serve as the foundation for a positive, high-performance culture. It’s worth taking the time to get everyone on the same page by establishing corporate values, developing a mutual understanding of them, and then making them an integral part of your everyday work experience — and this is all much easier to accomplish when your team is still small.

Copyright 2018 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

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