Question: Creating the company's value statement

We are a 7 year old taxi and shuttle service growing at a very rapid pace. We do so through our environment friendly vehicles and much greater focus on customer needs than our competitors.

I need your help to understand how to create a good statement of core values, through a practical and collaborative process.

- Should it be led by our founder or the new CEO or the VP of HR?
- How much time should we allow for the discussion and reflection?
- And most important, how do we make it part of the DNA a fast growing team?

7 Expert Insights

There is much to think about in the answers above and you will see the differing approaches that are always plentiful in the area of Values.

What you have asked for help in is "to create a good statement of core values" and I think what shines through from the advice is that this is tricky to do in isolation.

What I would add is that there is often a disconnect between company values and those of the constituent individuals' values. You often hear comments such as: "The company has come up with these values, but they're not my values" which of course leads to all sorts of unnecessary resistance.

You're going to be a lot more likely to be successful in this initiative if you get the help of a professional.

It might help to do as Stephen R. Covey advised and "begin with the end in mind". Since your objective is to make your values statement "part of the DNA" of your team, you will want to engage your team as broadly as possible in its development. After all, would the team be likely to enthusiastically embrace a statement developed by the leadership group in isolation?

Your CEO and VP of HR should certainly be involved, but so should the entire leadership team. It would be clear to the organization that values are a priority if a day was set aside to develop your statement. One way to approach this would be a large-group meeting facilitated by someone experienced in engaging the whole group to produce a meaningful outcome. At the end of the day you will want a concise, cogent, and memorable statement, but that simple statement will be distilled from a tremendous amount of input and dialogue. Those who participate will likely feel an emotional connection to your statement.

I think creating the company’s values is a responsibility of the CEO. The effort should be visibly led by him or her. It should not be led by the VP HR to avoid the final product being seen as “another HR program.”

Here are some success factors I have seen of values statements that make a difference:

It starts with the CEO having a passion to do it.
It is developed over the course of several meetings of the executive team.
The group starts by developing a shared understanding of the purpose of a values statement & how they intend to use it.
The group looks at examples of good & bad values statements.
The group individually answers several probing questions such as, what really differentiates us, what gives you passion for coming into work every day, what do we want to be known for by employees & customers. The words & short phrases – not sentences, are collected & displayed. The group looks at the collective input, identifies commonalities, discusses disagreements. No attempt is made to write a statement until key concepts are agreed upon. It should not be an exercise in word-smithing.
The meetings need to be led by the CEO. An external facilitator who has experience with these can help, but it should be the CEO’s meetings.
The dialog should force some hard choices. Participants should be willing to challenge each other. Emotions should show. They may be tough & frustrating meetings.
The final statement should be written by the CEO maybe with a helper

Jim Collins has a lot of good stuff on this topic.

Ultimately, the group will produce a statement. Then the hard work begins. It is not enough to craft a clever message & then send it to the employee communications function to distribute & make banners, plaques, souvenir pens, and tent cards. The values need to be inculcated into everything you do - reward systems, performance appraisals, recruitment processes, selection processes, succession planning, 360 feedback instruments, new employee orientation, etc., etc.

As a neuro-axiologist, I study and apply value SCIENCE integrated with neuroscience to the process of organizational change and transformation. We deal with personal and organizational values on a daily basis.

With the limited space I have, let me suggest:

1. Understand that Values are properties, attributes, or characteristics that drive decisions and behaviors Most often, they are NOT actual characteristics of every person in a group: they are an ideal that you want to develop into a characteristic.

2. For them to have power and meaning, these values must be linked to purpose - your mission and/or vision.

3. Therefore, first make sure you are crystal clear about your mission and vision, including WHY you have them and the value that their achievement can create. This step needs to be done first and ought to be done by the leadership team only.

4. THEN bring the rest of the group together to indentify the Values that support the Vision and Mission and that everyone in the group can get behind. The values you come up with will reflect properties, attributes,a dn behaviors without which you cannot fulfill your mission and vision.

5. Finally, turn your Vision, Mission, and Values Statements into questions that people will use to make decisions and to hold each other accountable. For example, "Does this _____ (choice, policy, action, etc.) support our mission of ____? This brings meaning, power, purpose, and sustainability. Teach these "Mission Critical Questions" to every employee from day one. Use them to hold people accountable and develop people by asking the questions whenever they are faced with decison or have made a poor decision.

When the above process is followed, the results are exponentially better than any other process we've seen.

Lastly, I would highly recommend that you hire an outside facilitator. An good facilitator won't have their own agenda and can help keep the conversation on track and moving forward.

Hope this helps.

I am answering the question on two or three sections because of word count restrictions. This is #1.

I take a different view about creating Vision, Mission and even Motto statement. A good source is Gordon D'Angelo's book Vision: Your Pathway to Victory - Sharing a Direction to a Better Future.

Covey also says, that employee buy-in is crucial to vision statements. As such, employees need to take a part in the process of creating a vision statement. Without employee buy-in, he reiterates employees are less apt to take it on and blend it into their own vision for success.

Vision is about not only where you want to end up, but also about how you want to be "seen" by the outer world in the future - 5, 10, 20 years down the road. Vision Statements are not mission statements. Vision statements can be worded in a variety of ways. I have seen them stated in one sentence, two sentences, three or four separate words, and some to lengthy to make sense.

Mission statements tell everyone what you are presently "doing" to turn your vision into a reality. It says what you do on a daily basis to provide customer service, complete objectives, etc. Mission Statements are supplemented with goals - SMART Goals:  Specific statements; Measurable outcomes; Achievable actions; Realistic behaviors; and Time restricted.

Here is the remainder of my answer above.

Motto statements are eye-catching phrases, motivating words the inspire not only employees, but also the outside customer.

Sample Motto:  Customer Service is our Purpose; Quality Service is our Goal; Safety is Priority ONE; for your taxi service - "We Deliver Happy Riders to their Destination. My personal Vanguard Organizational Leadership (VOL) Motto is: "Developing Great Leaders Who Develop Great Leaders", which is a desire of Servant Leadership, my leadership principle and practice.

The process can be done easily, but will take a month or two to process.
1. Ask your primary leadership for input on Vision, Mission and Motto Statement. They can provide individually via an email without intimidation from group activity.
2. When received, create a document with all the input.
3. Call a meeting, discuss the suggestions, correct, combine, throw-out as the group sees fit.
4. When finished, type them all up and ask leadership to review.
5. When everyone is satisfied, send it out to the employees and ask for their opinion. You might get good feedback, you might hear nothing, which is a positive, you might get some new ideas, which will have to be resolved.
6. You might have to have another meeting to discuss new ideas, which could improve on what was already completed.

Eventually, you will get sold Vision, Mission and Motto Statements that will be acceptable to everyone and taken onboard for their own.

I suggest having the CEO become part of the discussion rather than lead the discussion.  Have a professional facilitator lead it.
Focus on philosophy and mission statement first, then collaborate on values. Then translate values into specific behaviors for different levels and jobs that reflect those values.  These behaviors can then be used to evaluate employees.  This translation of aspirations to real behaviors is MOST important to make your values be real.