At the heart of any successful business are its values.
These values are the essence of what makes a business recognisable and form the perspective through which the business sees the world.
A business that is clear on its values will be able to answer why their chosen values matter and what end goal they serve. These values will create the culture of the business.
Creating company culture
Tiffany Bridges knows company culture inside out. She’s spent over ten years helping entrepreneurs to harness their native genius and build a company around it. Through her business, The Impact Coach, she’s on a mission to enable other business leaders to enjoy deeper fulfilment and have the impact they’ve always wanted.
In February 2023, The Business Catalyst were fortunate enough to join forces with Tiffany to deliver a webinar about the importance of company values.
During the webinar, she gave the following example to emphasise how significant values are when creating company culture:
Disney World is an immersive experience. From the moment ‘guests’ walk through the gates to the moment they leave, all team members are in character. It doesn’t matter who is in the Mickey uniform, who is playing Cinderella, or who has the role of Peter Pan. All actors will be expected to behave in a certain way, use and avoid certain language, and maintain the upbeat, positive values of Disney World. The company is incredibly clear and specific on what they expect from their employees. Not only does this create the magical experience but it is consistent across all their parks around the world.
It should be the same for any business. All employees should be clear on what the core values are (what they mean and don’t mean), what they look like in action, and have a commitment to embodying them every day.
In order for this to happen, though, the way we talk about our core values is critical. We should be clear in the way we communicate what is important to us as business leaders and to the business as a whole.
How can we identify our values?
If we’re unsure what our values should be, we can try asking ourselves the following questions:
- How do I want my staff to show up?
- How do I want them to behave when they’re “on stage”?
- How do I want them to go about making decisions?
As part of the webinar, Tiffany asked attendees to write down words that represented their core values – how they wanted themselves and their team to show up. Common themes included:
These are all fantastic values that would make for great company culture. However, we should be extremely careful in defining exactly what these words mean to us. As Tiffany pointed out, words have different meanings to different people.
The importance of alignment
Alignment is a recurring theme when talking about values. Tiffany shared a story from her days as an executive in a global company:
During a conversation with another senior member of the team, her colleague expressed concerns about one of their team members failing to act in alignment with a core value of the company. Tiffany was shocked, and disagreed. Confused, the two compared notes and realised that the issue was that they were not in alignment. Their individual understanding of what the core value meant, what it looked like in action, and what responsibilities it entailed were very different.
Tiffany emphasises the importance of alignment from the top down. “If we’re not clear and aligned at the top leadership executive level,” she says, “how can we expect anybody else to be clear and aligned?”
A framework for our values
As part of the webinar, attendees were given a powerful framework to use to prevent misalignment, recurring conversations, and general confusion. It consisted of two steps:
- What are they?
Tiffany suggests that having more than three values can dilute our message or become difficult to remember. The key point is to make the values as clear as possible for our team.
- What do they mean?
We should mitigate any risk of subjectivity and make it explicitly clear what each value means to us as business leaders and how we’d like to see each one embodied in our team.
It also helps to define clearly what a value doesn’t mean: behaviours, language, or frameworks we’d like our team to avoid in order to stay in alignment with our values.
All of these definitions should be written clearly – it’s not just about throwing words together that sound good. We should be intentional about how we structure our definitions relating to how we’d like our team to show up and make decisions. It’s also important the the language used to define the core values is written in a directive style (i.e. telling them how to behave or make decisions).
Values are not just for our team
A final point that Tiffany emphasises is that, contrary to popular belief, the values a business holds aren’t just for the business internally. “These core values are not just for your team,” says Tiffany. “They’re for your community, which also means your clients.”
We all want to work with right-fit, A-game clients. Clients who are in alignment with the way our business operates and embody the values we strive for. If we don’t make this a priority, we risk having tumultuous relationships with people who are not best-fit for our business.
This kind of relationship isn’t beneficial to anyone. To avoid this, when we’re engaging with our wider business community we should be extremely clear, speaking in alignment with our core values and committing to our word.
To watch the full webinar recording, click here.
For more information, advice, and words of wisdom on AI, entrepreneurship, and business coaching, find more of Tiffany here.