Values of a Great Team
You lead a team. You are a parent, a boss, a pastor, or a business owner. Regardless of the positions you hold, if you lead people, you want to create a positive, sustainable culture. Right? I know I do.
I want to share with you a list of values that I believe should be a part of every team’s culture. Before we break them down one-by-one, let’s make sure we are clear as to what we mean by values and talk about how to make them a realistic part of our team culture.
How do we define values?
The values of a team are the principles that guide how we treat one another and accomplish the mission of our organization.
Whether we like it or not, when a group of people live or work together, certain values naturally develop. Wise leaders don’t sit back and allow random behaviors and mindsets to surface on their own. Rather, they are extremely intentional to shape the values they deem most crucial to the team.
For example, in the United States, a core value among our citizens is the rule of law. No one is above the law, including the President. It’s a principle we believe in, apply, and enforce. However, this is not the case for many countries around the world. The law may be written, but too often the rich and powerful are immune to it. In the United States on the other hand, those who refuse to accept and adhere to the law are dealt with swiftly. We enforce our values. Great leaders not only define and shape their organization’s values, they enforce them.
In my family, my parents taught us to value these things: God, education, hard work, family, and tenacity. While these values were not written, they were instilled in us as children and young adults. We were expected to honor God. We were expected to aim for the highest education possible. We were expected to work hard. We were to stand by our family no matter what. And there was to be no talk of giving up. Regardless of the failures or pain that we endured, it was our family culture to keep fighting. And for that, I am deeply grateful to my mother and father.
You see, values are principles of living that a group of people follow. In the absence of positive, well-defined values, which are applied and enforced, malignant ones usually creep in. They run rampant and dominate the culture like overgrowth in a jungle. While you want to give your people freedom to flourish, implementing your organization’s values will establish boundaries that will empower them to grow.
When values are engrained in the collective consciousness of a people, a culture is created. A culture is really just another way to describe the atmosphere these values create. It is up to you, as the leader, to make sure the culture you want is practiced. Let me be straightforward here: You must do whatever it takes to preserve your culture, including making tough people-decisions. In other words, those who refuse to adopt and promote your team’s values should not be part of your team.
Should the values be written?
Our family values were strictly followed, though they were never written. There was no list on the wall or the refrigerator door. The key here is that the values are defined, adopted, and enforced. So if, as the leader, you are able to do that successfully without writing the values, then go with what works for you. You will be more successful than the leader who writes them out, yet fails to execute them with his team.
Having said that, I still believe in the power of the written word. It is optimal to have your values written. When they are written, it easier to repeat them, recite them, and collectively focus on them.
Can we call values by a different name?
Sure. Call them whatever you want. Guiding principles. Team code. Family beliefs. Core values. Dogmas. Philosophies. Regardless what you call them, clearly define the principles by which you guide your people.
Can our values be updated or changed?
Absolutely. The values don’t have to be treated like holy scripture. As you grow as a leader, as your organization matures, or your vision evolves, review your guiding principles to see if they require revision. If they need to be reshaped, or even completely rewritten, don’t be afraid to do it. If you find however, that you are changing your team’s values more than once every year or two, it may be an indication you and your team should spend a little more time deliberating before deciding on them.
How many values should we have?
There is no magic number. However, you must know that in order for principles to be adopted, they must be easily remembered. So if there are 140 of them, it is going to be difficult to commit them to memory and discuss them as a group on a consistent basis. Personally, I aim to have ten to twelve values to guide the teams I lead. Although, I know of great organizations that have up to twenty stated values.
How should they be written?
There are many ways to articulate the values of an organization or team. You may choose to select statements, words, or short phrases. The best values are those that are simple, easily memorized, and can be studied, repeated, and infused into the culture.
I prefer one-word messages, even up to two or three words. One way to accomplish that, is to carefully select one word, then expound upon its meaning in a sentence. For example:
Growth – We will strive to grow personally and professionally, intentionally and consistently, as individuals and as a team.
How do you come up with your team’s values?
Simple. Borrow them from other organizations. Actually borrow mine, if you like. I will be sharing them with you in subsequent articles. After you borrow from others, refine the principles to fit the journey you are walking with your people.
Forming values is something we often procrastinate. So, just begin collecting them. Every time you read another organization’s values, and something resonates with you, take note. Then discuss it with your team. Let everyone contribute. Let them edit and add to the list. Whether borrowed or original, refine them over a few weeks or months. But start your list today. Jot down a couple of thoughts in a place where you can continue to add to them and review them.
Who should be involved in creating the team values?
Anyone in the organization can take on this project. Classically it is the leadership team who leads this effort and signs off on it. However, it would be nice to have everyone answer the question, “What values or principles do you think should guide our interactions with one another and accomplish our mission?” Based on everyone’s answers, a facilitator should initiate a discussion as to which should make the final list. This list can then be approved by the leaders of the organization.
How do you execute the values?
Here are a few keys to ensure the values are adopted and adhered to by everyone.
- The leaders of an organization have to champion the values. They must believe in them, model them, talk about them, and teach them.
- Hire based on your organizational values. Choose people who already embrace these values. Don’t fall into the trap of hiring someone who doesn’t share your values with the intention of teaching them to him or her.
- Once hired, make sure people are educated about your values and that they understand they are expected not only to adhere to them, but also to promote them and teach them.
- The team should undergo constant training and review of the values. As an example, the Ritz Carlton staff, known for their consistency in exemplary customer service, choose one value to discuss in each of their daily meetings.
- Evaluate people’s performances, not only by whether they are following the values, but whether they are building and promoting the values.
Actionable Step: If you don’t have your team values written and defined, make time to start your list today. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect. Make it a work in progress. Aim to have it completed and implemented within a few months.
About me: I was honored to attend the National Prayer Breakfast last week for the first time in Washington DC. I will be sharing some of what I learned in future articles.
For Further Reading: