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How do you promote core values in your company?

YFS Magazine (Young, Fabulous and Self-employed) ran an article not too long ago on “100 Core Values from 15 Winning Companies.” They looked at a range of companies, including Zappos, Toms Shoes, Whole Foods, Accenture, Teach for America, Rackspace, A Weber, Barnes & Noble, Google, American Express, Four Season Hotels & Resorts, CarMax, Salesforce.com, Boston Consulting Group, and Quicken Loans.

Sorting the 100 core values by theme, rather than by organization, interesting trends began to emerge.  These 15 high-performance companies–across various industries–certainly aim to deliver a whole lot more than profit.

The following list is presented in order of the frequency with which the value was mentioned (the number reflects the instances in which that concept was listed).

  • Social Responsibility (16)
  • Customer Service (15)
  • Respect (8)
  • Team (8)
  • Quality (6)
  • Learning (6)
  • Integrity (4)
  • Fun (4)
  • Communication (3)
  • Partnerships (3)
  • Diversity (3)
  • Change (2)
  • Creativity (2)
  • Leadership (2)
  • Passion (2)

A group at Stanford Graduate School of Business took another stab at determining which core values matter most, by asking alumni “What values are important to you in business?”  Key themes emerging from their interviews included, treating others the way you want to be treated (Respect), Integrity, Open and honest communication, Trust, Appreciation, Honesty, Passion, Transparency, and Making a difference.

With Social Responsibility and Customer Service topping the list, it is impressive to see companies looking outside themselves.

Several tools can help your group discuss and promote your organization’s core values:

1) The Values Game:  Discuss personal values and group norms.

This game is an aid to reaching consensus in groups, teams or organizations, on the values and norms that you all consider to be important. By using and prioritizing these cards, people not only become more aware of what they value, but also get to appreciate other people’s perspectives.

This 140-card game includes 63 “Values” cards; 38 “Group Norms” (the rules that dictate what kind of behavior is good or bad); and 39 “Subjects” cards that will help make your discussion more concrete.

1. Values: A value is something that you find important to aspire to, that directs your actions. Some examples are: servitude, respect and justice.

2. Subjects: These are used to narrow down the discussion on values, to make it even more concrete. For example: management, education, media and politics.

3. Group norms: These are the rules that dictate what kind of behavior is good or bad, wished for or unwanted, allowed or forbidden in groups and teams. For example: ‘you must always speak the truth’ or ‘knowledge must be shared with others’.

2) Business Values Cards: Identify your organization’s core values

Core values support the vision, help shape the culture and reflect what the company values. They are the essence of the company’s identity. Knowing your Core Values will provide both internal and external advantages to your business.

This pack of 50 cards and 4 ranking cards can be used in various workshops such as:

1. Identifying Core Business Values – individuals rank the cards to filter down to the 10 most desirable cards. These Core Business Values can be used to provide focus and direction to future goals and plans.

2. Leadership Values – each leader presents the 5 most relevant values that represent their vision of what is important to them within their role.

3. Team Values – groups pick a number of cards which best illustrate the expectations of the team. As a group, create a joint vision for the team.

4. Managing Change – prior to a change initiative, individuals or teams identify cards which represent the state of the business now and another to show how they would like it to be in the future.

5. Identifying Talent – choose cards to help identify potential talent quickly.

All workshops encourage thought and reflection about the indivdual, the team and the company. Cards are best used for small group work, 6 to 8 participants. Excellent 1 to 1 work. Exercises can take from 20 minutes to 1 hour.

3)  i noticed… Pads: recognize efforts to implement core values

Sometimes GREAT work happens in small ways. Let people know you’ve noticed the big and small efforts they make each day to contribute to your organization, promote its mission, and create positivity.

Use carbonless Kudos to give recognition and keep a record of it! Each time you send someone a note of appreciation, you’ll have a duplicate to keep in your file — or pass on to a manager or mentor who might want to know about your hero’s achievements.

Each page is printed with: “I noticed… you took our values to heart”. Check off the appropriate boxes and include your own “from the heart” message.   Set includes 3 pads; each pad is 4.25″ x 5.5″ and has 50 2-part carbonless sets.

4) Positivity Pack: include a strong message about values when onboarding new employees

Send the message that you mean business when it comes to creating a positive corporate culture or learning environment.

Give each colleague a “Positivity Pack” with eight key icons that reflect your organization’s values and personality:

  • Team guys: support and respect the team
  • Smile Ball: Make customers happy!
  • Mini-Sneaker: go the extra mile to improve quality  
  • Learning Mo-Mints: keep growing and learning
  • Party Blowout: have fun  (Fun)
  • Stretchy String: be flexible and open to change 
  • Mirror Ball: embrace diverse perspectives
  • Crayons: express your creativity