In the journey of your company, you can think of the company purpose as the North Star: it’s the guiding light giving direction towards the greater company vision. Core values are the vehicle that will take you there.
On today’s episode of Insights, we’re talking about defining your core values, step three in learning to lead like a human. Along the way you’ll meet Lois Weinblatt, Founder of True North Visionaries, as she discusses the importance of establishing your core values so you can pursue your company purpose.
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[00:00:00] Welcome back to leave like a human, the latest season of insights on original series by amplify I'm Nicole MacLean. And I will be going on this journey with you. As we dig into Adam Weber's newest book lead like a human, which is now available for preorder on Amazon. Before we move forward, let's do a short recap of last week's episode.
We talked about activating your purpose and how it can inspire your people and drive an engaged culture. When you help your employees see a direct connection from their day to day, work to the larger company purpose, you unlock discretionary effort, new ideas, and help them bring their best self to work.
Purpose also has a significant influence on core values, which is exactly what we'll be talking about today to help guide us on this journey. As low as wind black founder of true North visionaries, she helps leaders from around the world gain clarity to navigate success. Now I use that [00:01:00] word journey very intentionally.
Imagine that your company is on a journey. Well, that makes your purpose, the North star, the guiding light, giving your team direction, which makes your core values, the guidelines for how you get there. Now, before we move forward, the terms, purpose, vision values. Mission can get interchanged pretty frequently.
They do not mean the same thing. So, let me officially introduce Lois to give us a shared language
Oh, purpose. I think of something that is sort of out there in front of us, like a guiding star aspirational. We're never going to get there. We never can get there. And the point isn't actually to get there, the point is that it is this guiding light. That's always drawing us forward. What if we just have our mission or purpose sort of floating out there on its own, it can be inspiring, but it can also be kind of exhausting because again, we're never actually going to [00:02:00] get there.
And that really is where the vision comes in, because it gives us a way to feel successful at different points along our journey. And our vision is a definition of success at a specific point in the future. When we get to that specific destination, we can Mark that moment. Assess we can reflect and then we can create our next vision, right.
Setting our next destination and chart the course to get there always guided by that same purpose. So we've got our purpose, we've got our vision and then we've got those core values that are really how we show up along that entire journey. They're kind of like our rules of the road, all of these same, all of these things might seem like a nice to have.
But as we learned in our last episode, a defined purpose, along with clear core values, unlocks your most important asset, your people, especially in an environment with so many unknowns, aligning these foundational elements, can't be something that's just left to the wayside. And here's why I think so often as an [00:03:00] organization, we talk about what we're going to do, but we don't spend enough time talking about how we're going to do it.
And by not having alignment there, subconsciously there's all sorts of infractions that take place. When we're trying to do the, what, when employees have this sense of the way we're doing it, it's not in alignment. And so as a company, I think it's critical goal that we agree on the way that we're going to operate, regardless of situation.
So in our good seasons and our difficult seasons, what aspects of who we are non negotiable. And also what is unique about us? What makes us different? What is in our core DNA that makes us uniquely us? And by aligning on that framework, on that kind of how we're going to operate framework, it creates a steadiness in the work environment.
I think it creates accountability. It gives permission for people to, to name when we're not like at every level of the org when we're not abiding [00:04:00] or living out those values or the, we know purpose is the why. Vision is the where, and our core values are the, how, if people know where you're going and why they should be able to find their way.
No problem. Right? Well, not so much without the guidance of clearly defined values, your employees aren't as equipped to handle challenges along the way. And as a result, it creates a lack of autonomy, which ding, ding lowers engagement. Now I'm going to go a little off script here, and I want to give you an analogy.
Imagine that you were in charge of watching 30 kindergartners at a playground. If that playground had no fence, you're likely going to keep those kids as close to you as possible, making sure you know what they're doing and where they are at all times. Now if that same playground had a fence around it, you're probably going to feel a little bit more comfortable giving them some room, play all the way up to the fence, because you feel a little more confident that you are going to know where they are at all times.
This [00:05:00] is exactly what core values can do for your company. It allows employees to go and play right up to the fence. So clearly defining your core values will help your employees make decisions for themselves. This decision making ability leads to greater autonomy, which is one of the primary drivers of engagement and defining your values will benefit your organization.
And a lot of other ways, here's a concrete example from Lois. When we are able to articulate those values, it can be one of the most critical pieces of this sort of entire process. And a lot of times people think, Oh, you know, values are just sort of a feel good thing, and you put them up on a poster on a wall and you're done and that's it.
And if done correctly, values can actually be one of the most critical pieces and allowing an organization to make better decisions faster. Have a filter in place. It allows us to sort of ask ourselves in any given moment, am I living in alignment with this value? Or am I not? Are my actions, are [00:06:00] my choices in alignment with living this value?
Or are my actions actually taking me farther away from living that value? And when everyone in the organization has that filter, it's incredibly powerful because it's something that they can utilize in a moment to moment basis with a colleague or they can utilize when they can. Decision on an organizational level.
How often do we treat values or even our purpose as a feel good exercise. We just slap them up on a wall and call it a day rather than using it as a tool to empower our people and culture. I don't know about you, but I always learn a ton from failures. So I asked Lois to share some pitfalls that she has observed from organizations who may have missed the Mark.
There are definitely pitfalls that I see time and time again. Yeah. In terms of organizations trying to work on core values. And I think one of those is if an organization feels like it's just a check the box exercise, you know? Oh yeah. I read this leadership book and I guess I'm supposed to have vision mission values.
And, you know, they kind of, when those three together vision, mission [00:07:00] values, you know, it's like one phrase, they feel like they just kind of have to do this process and it's again, work that they have to do. And I work with, they get to do. And if the. Top leadership of an organization. It feels like I have to do something other than get to do it.
I promise you, anyone else in the organization is going to feel like it. And they're like, have to do it as well. So it becomes, it can become sort of this road exercise where, you know, you're thinking back to like those old school office buildings that have the picture of the flying Eagle and the word inspiration and, you know, people putting your hands together and the word teamwork.
And it just can feel like this really sort of cliche exercise. And again, feeling like is this just something to help us feel good? What is the point? The insight here, pun intended is that poorly crafted values. Don't help your people make decisions and can actually cause a decline in engagement. Not exactly what we're going towards.
So with that context in mind, you're probably asking yourself, how do we live out core values? Well, I'm so glad you asked as a purpose is unique to the [00:08:00] company. So our core values, they are the reflection of the people who make up the organization. Core values, create an environment where people immediately know when they're a good fit or more importantly, when they're not, this is culture fit to be clear, culture fit does not mean everyone looks the same or that you just create clones of your best employees.
What it does mean is that you have a diverse population of people striving to accomplish your purpose, that all share the foundational attributes that make up your core values. It all comes back to decision making. And if an organization is able to come at that process through that lens and say, we're not just doing this to have something pretty to put on the walls or to feel good, or to put on a tee shirt, we're doing this because at the end of the day, we want to be able to empower everyone in this organization to make better decisions about how they're showing up.
And in order to do that, we want to really get clarity around what these core values look like. Think of purpose and vision and values sort of coming [00:09:00] together. To form an internal compass for everyone within the company or the organization. And I always think of the purpose and the values are at the center of the compass.
Those are the things that remain the same. The reality is employees live out a set of values, whether they've been defined or not as a leader, it's your responsibility to clarify in the line core values. So as you've been listening, you're probably falling into one of three buckets. You have core values and you're good.
You have core values, but they're not great. You have no idea what I'm talking about or you're probably somewhere in between. This is a spectrum, no matter where you fall, I want to run through a short exercise to help you really think through how to craft values that are truly aligned to your organization.
So grab a notebook and old gum wrapper, a crumpled up receipt, just something that you can write on. Okay. Are you ready now? Close your eyes unless you're driving, please. Don't do that. Keep them open. Think about the people in your organization. [00:10:00] Is there one person that jumps out where the company just wouldn't be the same?
Not necessarily because of what they do, but because of how they do it. Well, write their name down again, unless you're driving. That person is exactly who Adam refers to as a cultural rockstar, they are the embodiment of your culture and its values. Odds are you probably have multiple rockstars in your company, just ask around others will be able to tell you exactly who they are, but be sure to write them all down.
Once you've made your list and checked it twice, set a meeting, get those rock stars in a room and discuss the cornerstones of the organization. This group will be instrumental in helping to define the company's core values to help you think through this meeting. I want to share an exercise that we've done an amplify from Zingerman's visioning exercise.
It's called hot pen. This is where you sit down for 15 to 20 minutes and think about a specific day three to five years in the future. And envision what the culture is like on that [00:11:00] exact day in the future. The key is to write continuously no editing, no grammar checks. Just pretend that the pen is hot and you can't stop legitimately.
If you can't think of what to write, then just write your name or write down your thoughts. I don't know what I'm thinking over and over again until the next thought is ready to come out. As you read through the responses, you should be able to start see a pattern emerge. As you notice the patterns identify the most important themes.
And from there, you'll refine the list to get down to the essence of what the company's values should be. It's the first step in a long process, but it's a start at amplify values are a huge part of our culture and how we operate on a daily basis. Thanks. In part to our leaders like Adam and Santiago, Armijo, the CEO, and other cofounder and amplify, they have made it a point to communicate the importance of our values.
And they're also not afraid to hold themselves and others accountable to living out those values in the workplace. It wasn't actually too long ago when amplify we refreshed our core values ourselves. [00:12:00] And one of the reasons my business partner, Santiago and I, we started a previous company called blue bridge.
And then when we sold it, we basically started amplify right away. Most of the employees from blue bridge became a part of amplify and we never actually changed our core values, even though we changed our company and we no, where we realized we have our own identity and our own DNA. And so we recognized it was time to do a refresh of those core values.
And so to do it just really practically how we did it was we created a peer nominated committee. So we asked the employees who from your department asked, exemplifies amplify today at its very best. And from the, we got this really cross departmental group of people together. And we did a half day, a half day session where we basically wrote a culture initially.
So that vision was, think of it as like everyone takes 15 minutes and you write about a specific day, five years in the future. And then everyone read those visions. And [00:13:00] as they're reading their individual stories, which by the way, an incredible inspiring session to do. People are listening for themes to emerge and patterns.
And through that, by the end of the day, you really do start to have an initial draft because of what those values are. And then we did another exercise after that. Now those initial themes to decide how will we know if those values are being lived out? And cause one of the things for us that really mattered, we need to know, is it measurable?
Are these values actually being lived out? So once we had the list of the values and some bullet points on how, you know, if you're living out those values, we went on a story tour where. And this, by the way, it worked because it also helped with the change management of new values. So we started sharing with small pockets, what these new values were.
And we really did it with the purpose though, of hearing stories from employees of other employees who have maybe lived out one of these values in really impressive [00:14:00] ways. And it was a really neat two, or we call it the story to her, where we started to really gather a whole collection prior to the values, even launching of these stories of our values already being lived out in the wild.
And then the way that we launched it was pretty straight forward. We shared the values. We created logos for each values, but we have the employees themselves share stories of their peers and examples of those values being lived out before we wrap today's episode, I want to make sure that we're super clear on one point an essential piece of core values is activating those values after you've defined them.
If you don't follow through on this core values are just an idea. Here's Adam. That's really where the values start to come alive because you're really doing it in many ways. It's a transfer from yourself to the employees because without the values being lived by the employees, they are just an idea of the people who created them.
So for us practically, some of the things we've done is we do. A peer nominated award. The most [00:15:00] significant one is our Le our legend award, which we give out once a year to someone who truly exemplifies the values over the course of an entire year. And then we have micro ways. We do it as well, weekly recognition, where you can submit and give a really specific example of how someone's living the values, core values should impact everything from hiring practices to how you interact with customers.
Want to know one of the easiest and most overlooked ways to activate your values feedback. When you have a clearly defined set of values with examples of what each one looks like to live them out, you give your employees a shared vernacular for both recognition and for productive conflict managers should be coaching on these in one-on-ones and employees should feel empowered to hold each other accountable.
You'll know your core values are truly activated. When you start to see this happening, I hope this has helped you understand the impact core values can have on an organization. And more importantly, the impact that they have on employee engagement together with purpose, core values, allow people [00:16:00] to see where they're going and how they're going to get there.
For even more ideas and examples on how to live out your values, be sure to pick up your copy of lead, like a human. Thank you so much for joining this episode of lead, like a human, our next episode, we continue the journey with step four on goal setting where you'll meet Chris Evans, captain America.
You'll just have to tune in to find out.