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As a strategic consultant, I learned early in my career that if I wanted my clients’ businesses to succeed – financially and otherwise – I first had to help them clarify and strengthen their corporate culture. This idea is supported by Peter Drucker, one of the most prominent management consultants of all time, when he said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
However, culture is a rather amorphous idea. It’s a kind of love. You know how it feels, but it can be difficult to describe it and/or know how to build it. That’s where your company’s values and practices come into play.
Values and practices clarify how your team thinks and acts and serve as the foundation of your corporate culture. Capturing, communicating and adhering to a concise and well-defined set of values and practices is pure gold that leads directly to:
- Increased efficiency
- Better decision making
- Improved communication
- Managed expectations
- Stronger productivity
- More effective recruiting practices
- Greater profitability
Here are some proven ideas on how to create values and practices and how best to implement them.
Related: Core Values: What They Are, Why They Matter, and How to Implement Them Today
Table of Contents
Values versus practices
Values and practices are similar in that they are both intended to describe the ways in which you and your team think and act. However, values are more general and lofty, while practices describe practical and specific actions.
Below is a short list of some values and practices that will help you differentiate between the two.
- Make it work
- Keep it simple
- Not bound by convention
- Clean up email once a week
- Express gratitude and appreciation
- Invest in your professional growth
- Leave meetings with clear next steps
- Practice financial transparency
- Try to understand first
- Serve during the sale
- Set up results-based calendars
As you can see, some values are just one word and others are short sentences; anyway works. Also note that each of the exercises starts with a verb to make them active.
Related: Do Core Values Still Matter Today?
Some important tips for establishing values and practices
There are several ways to identify and implement your ideas, but the most important thing is to focus on values first. Once you’ve created a set of values, you can move on to identifying your practices. It can be a bit much to tackle both at once, but your values can help underpin your practices.
Resist the temptation to list all of your company’s values. What you’re looking for are four core values that are particularly unique to your company. You are looking for non-negotiable qualities of your company and culture that set you apart from others in your space.
You want to keep your list of practices organized. I recommend having 10 practices. Since practices are much more specific and tactical, it’s okay to have a list bigger than your values.
Ask your team for guidance as you identify potential values and practices. Ask them for an employee who represents what’s best about your company. What are their core qualities? What are they doing well? Or ask them to think of some former employees who weren’t a good fit for your company. What were their qualities and/or work habits that made them incompatible with your culture?
Related: 4 reminders to define your company’s values
Implementation and revision
After creating your values and practices, don’t let them collect dust! Determine how to apply them to day-to-day activities so that they remain top-of-mind and have a better chance of driving the creation of your corporate culture. Here are some examples:
- Share your values internally and externally. Being upfront about your values builds trustworthiness and long-term relationships with your team and customers. Post your values and practices in a company-wide publication, such as your strategic plan, employee handbook, business cards, office posters, meeting agendas, your website, and even marketing materials.
- Communicate clearly your values and practices during onboarding and training processes.
- Make sure your management team is too embody these values and lead by example.
- Use your values as a filter in your hiring processes. Asking interview questions that relate to your values can help you make more informed decisions when hiring. For example, if you value teamwork, ask a candidate what role they usually play on a team or ask them to give examples of team failures or success they’ve experienced.
- Celebrate your values. At my company, we’ve come up with a simple way for all employees to send a video or text message praising anyone they see living our company’s values. When we started this, we required all team members to do this once a month, hoping it would become ingrained in our culture. We then highlight these ‘shoutouts’ during team meetings.
- Get regular feedback from your team. We do this by sending a culture survey to our team every quarter. The survey asks them questions to determine if the values and practices are clear to them. It also asks them to assess which values and practices are most beneficial to the team and their work. After collecting survey results, we meet as a team to discuss our values and practices.
As you implement your values and practices, you learn what works and what doesn’t. Therefore, be prepared to review them. At my company, we have a solid set of values and practices that we’ve spent quite a bit of time creating. But as our business evolves and we recruit new team members, we revisit the values and practices and revise them where necessary.