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7 Ways to Live Your Company Values

A CEO client recently posed a great question:

How do I keep the company values front and center in people’s mind?  Are there things I can be doing on a semi-regular basis to keep them thinking (and living) them?

It’s a smart question because once you’ve gone through the effort of identifying your values you MUST live them (see Collins’ book Good to Great).  Otherwise you are better off not capturing them because people can smell the difference between espoused values and lived values a mile away and you will lose their confidence (not to mention passion, loyalty and best effort).

1.    Advertise them.

You might be surprised at how many of your employees don’t even know the values.  So it doesn’t go without saying that you need to post them places, company newsletters, websites, cubicles, etc.

2.    Don’t make decisions without them.

Use your company values as a definitive guide for everything you do. Think of them as a decision filter for hiring, developing people, customer decisions, growth and strategic decisions, etc.

3.    See them as core to the business.

Think and talk about your company values (which define your culture) as a profit center because companies that manage people right outperform companies that don’t by 30-40% (Jeffrey Pfeffer, Harvard Business School Press, 1998).

4.    Tell stories about them.

Ask employees to tell a “values story” about another employee that they observed.  They should describe in detail how that person demonstrated a value(s).

5.    Celebrate them, specifically and often.

Every recognition of an employee is an opportunity to showcase the values and connect what they did to a specific company value.  Be deliberate about this.

6.    Drive everyone’s behavior and actions with the values.

Values can’t exist in a vacuum, they are either guiding how employees behave and act or they aren’t.  They can’t guide the staff but not the leaders and CEO, people will perceive that and the values become a farce.

7.    Reward them.

In my son’s school, when a child displays one of the core values and someone notices it, the child gets recognized.  Adults appreciate recognition too. Highlight examples of when people live a particular value, even small examples.  Do it in small conversations and in larger forums.  By focusing on employees who live the values, you are reinforcing that they are real and that they influence how you treat colleagues and customers.


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