How many of you wear (or have worn) badges peppered with words and phrases representative of your company's core values? Have you internalized these core values and model them at work? Are they even meaningful to you? And did you receive training on how to translate these values into everyday behavior?
Far too often companies build their cultures around value words, which by themselves mean little to their employees or contingent workers.
Case in point. Years ago I worked for a company that listed "risktaking" as a core value, but neither the new hire orientation instructor nor my supervisor could provide me with examples of "What successful risktaking on the job looked like." This triggered my interest in risktaking and how people at this company translated it to the work arena. So I asked people. A lot of people. And at the end of the day, risktaking as a core value for the company and as a personal value meant something different for everyone! There was no single right answer.
So let’s say you’re involved in the design or redesign of a company's culture, why not consider adding or tweaking your core values for today’s workplace? Below are nine everyday skills that when viewed through an entrepreneurial prism could provide you with some company culture ideas for the real world.
Idea #1: Think On Your Feet.
Today’s workplace is about adaptability, flexibility, and agile approaches to business. Today’s professionals need to know how to think on their feet; pivot in order to evolve their projects, keep funding flowing, and their units afloat. Staying competitive in business and in the workplace requires an ability to read the environment for possible changes in direction, often triggered by external circumstances--industry or marketplace shifts. A core value that keeps the workforce informed about what’s happening locally, nationally, and globally as well as in the workplace helps them to connect the dots in thinking on their feet.
Google's philosophy: Core value #3: Fast is better than slow. You can’t move fast if you can’t think on your feet.
Idea #2: You Are Your Resources.
The days when you could tap resources on demand are pretty much gone (at least here in the U.S.). One way to stand out for the right reasons is to be recognized for your resourcefulness. Your ability to think and act like a scrappy entrepreneur, even though you may be employed by a multi-national corporation, will both differentiate you at work (and in the marketplace), but also give you transferable skills for other situations, such as, eventually starting your own business (by choice or by necessity).
Idea #3: Inspire Innovation.
Today’s leaders and managers must inspire entrepreneurial thinking and innovative behavior—inspiring ideas of applicable value. This includes creative problem solving, not so much focusing on the problem but facilitating the means for achieving inspired solutions.
Patagonia's mission statement and core values: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
Idea #4: Budget-Outside-the-Box.
Just as career professionals need to be resourceful, they also need to understand how finance works at the company, how money flows (or not), and how successful budget owners weave their magic. Project managers, in particular, need to learn the art of creative budgeting—where to locate less obvious funds as part of their Plan B budget strategies, how to build cross-functional alignment, and how to negotiate out-of-the-box funding.
Idea #5: Become Stewards of Change.
Change is a given in today’s workplace. Therefore, it’s imperative that leaders, managers, and career professionals become stewards of progressive change. Progressive change is not rebellious, but includes a real honoring of tradition and understanding of what drives the status quo. How does the company (or business unit) define progressive changes vs. subversive intentions—even though both involve disrupting the existing order of things?
Self-reinvention, business disruption, and innovation all speak to change. But given that no one size fits all when it comes to change, how will you explain the difference using practical, real-world examples?
Zappos' Core Values #2: Embrace and Drive Change.
Idea #6: Model Healthy People Dynamics.
There’s no getting around people dynamics, commonly referred to as organizational politics. Healthy people dynamics are inclusive, diverse and collaborative. Unhealthy ones destroy relationships, squash creativity, undermine confidence, and thwart innovation. How does your company’s culture recognize unhealthy people dynamics? What preventive, corrective, and accountable actions represent your core values?
Zappos' #6 Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication.
Idea #7: Focused Idealism.
Focused idealism is a work ethic that rises above cynicism (sadly, so prevalent today) by embracing discipline as a core value.
More people today want meaningful work. They want their efforts and achievements to represent something beyond the real or virtual walls of their work environment. How does your company’s core values pave the way for people to work and serve for the sake of applying their ideas and ideals, both personally satisfying and that inspire innovative solutions for (re)building the world?
Idea #8: Facilitate Compassionate Accountability.
Getting the job done requires discipline. And in today’s work environment it’s about setting the bar high enough so that you exceed your desired goals. But a big part of Emotional Intelligence is compassion and empathy. So how will your core values emphasize the importance of accomplishment while also instilling EQ values? How will you train, prepare, and support your leaders and managers for modeling and recognizing when compassionate accountability must come into play—finding creative ways to redistribute and reassign work for those times when people need some relief for what lies beyond the workplace arena—while still meeting their deliverables?
Idea #9: Letting Go Is An Art Form.
When success in life is as much about what you embrace as well as what you release, how do your core values teach and prepare your workforce for letting go—letting go of outworn and outdated ideas and ways of doing things, as well as knowing when it’s time for a self-reinvention. It also speaks to responsibility when moving on to something else—the discipline of planning and communicating before passing the baton.
Core values that teach people effective ways to change are practical, but they also create a pathway for healthy people dynamics. When core values emphasize the art of letting go, you not only prepare people for ongoing disruptions, but you also encourage less territorial behaviors.
Although I refer to three companies in this post (Google, Intel, and Zappos), there are many more that provide creative company values for today's ever-changing work environment. What core values have you found useful?