This article was based on episode 72 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Get the mini-guide here or the full guide when you become a member at mamieks.com/join. Purchase a single full guide at mamieks.com/store.
You may have heard of Jim Collin’s famous quote from Good to Great, “Get the right people on the bus.” Gino Wickman, author of Traction: Get A Grip On Your Business, has his own version: “you have to have the right people in the right seats”.
But how do you know if you have the right people in the right seats on the bus? Gino explains you that the right people share your core values and the right seat matches their skills and competencies. Therefore, in order to get the right people, you need to be explicit about your team’s core values.
TEAM VALUES ALIGN BEHAVIORS
Team values differ from organizational values and individual values in that they’re unique to the team and its work. Organizational values apply to all employees and are part of the “north star” that guides the enterprise whereas individual values are personal to the individual. Team values elevate what matters most to this particular group. For example, a sales team team may highlight ‘customer focus,’ a product development team may lift up ‘craftsmanship,’ and a finance team may emphasize ‘attention to detail.’
While team values may seem like a ‘nice to have,’ they are surprisingly helpful. Often managers and colleagues struggle with how to deal with people who are good performers but are hard to work with. In my experience ‘hard to work with’ is often code for a lack of alignment on values.
For example, when a team member isn’t respectful, hoards information, rarely shows appreciation, or blames others for their mistakes, it may be partly a personality or style misfit and partly a lack of clarity or accountability on what behaviors are expected.
These types of behaviors can be hard to address when they seem secondary to goal achievement. But when the team’s values are defined, acting in accordance with the values can be elevated to equal importance as achieving the goals themselves. In other words, how you do the work is just as important as what you accomplish.
When the values are explicit, everyone on the team knows what’s expected and what they’ll be held accountable for. Then, when a team member’s behavior is in conflict with the team’s stated values, you are able to work with them to develop the appropriate behaviors, just like you would for any other competency or skill.
THE STRUCTURE OF TEAM VALUES
I find it’s helpful to give more depth to a value than simply a word or phrase. While a single term is helpful as short-hand and easier to remember, it leaves too much room for interpretation.
Therefore, I suggest crafting values with the following components:
VALUE TERM OR PHASE: the word or phrase that captures the essence of the value.
THE DEFINITION: A brief description of the value that further defines or illuminates what we mean by this.
WHAT IT’S NOT: A brief description of what the value does not mean or what abuse or overuse looks like in action.
CREATE YOUR TEAMS VALUES
1. Ask your team members to identify the team’s values. Start with a broad list of values terms and ask people to select their top 12 team values from this list. It’s OK for them to select values that are aspirational.
2. Group the selected values into themed buckets. Combine similar concepts until you have groupings that make sense. For example, Dependability, Accountability, Preparedness, Responsiveness and Responsibility all speak to our ability to rely on each other.
3. Work with the team to identify the 5-7 most important buckets. Present the groupings as a starting point and ask the team if these feel right overall or if any of the terms should be moved or combined. Then push yourselves to select the 5-7 most important groupings. You’ll need to articulate what matters most to this team. What makes a difference in how you work together or with external stakeholders?
4. Draft definitions and ‘what it’s not’ statements. Use the word groupings as a starting point. Craft to 1-2 sentences that further illuminate the value concept. Pick a word or phrase as the recommended value term. Lastly, try to imagine what it would be like if someone were overusing this value. How might it be unhealthy or disruptive?
5. Collectively enhance the values. As the team to identify what elements of the draft statements they like, what isn’t working, and add any new ideas. Then work through the input as a team until you’ve agreed on ‘good enough to go’ versions. Lean into disagreements and clarify whether the value needs to change or the person holds a different value than the team.
6. Ratify the values (for now.) Celebrate the work you’ve done and agree to revisit the values in 6 months - 1 year to reflect on how they’re working. You can always update or refresh them.
SOME REAL EXAMPLES TO INSPIRE YOU
COLLABORATION: We work together to achieve common goals, building relationships grounded in mutual respect, effective communication and trust. What it’s not: We do not overly involve each other. We do not let collaboration impede progress.
CREATIVITY: As creative problem solvers, we seek opportunity in every situation. We think outside the box, balance risks and have the freedom to explore what might be. What it’s not: We do not dismiss incremental innovations simply because they are not exciting. We do not do things differently only for the sake of being different or creative.
POSITIVITY: We are optimists, always searching for the silver lining and viewing challenges as opportunities. We find our work rewarding and take pride in it. With an upbeat attitude, we engage with clients and colleagues joyfully, despite conflicts or clashes. What it’s not: We do not avoid bad news or wear rose colored glasses.
DELIVER RESULTS: Through self motivation, resourcefulness and the ability to adapt as we go, we accomplish what we set out to do. We go above and beyond to deliver value to the business and our customers. We leverage our individual and collective talents to drive results. What it’s not: We do not allow a drive for excellence to cause inefficiency. We do not drive ourselves to burn-out or fixate on success.
Get a list of potential values as the free mini-guide here or the full guide to help you create your team's values when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at mamieks.com/join. Or, purchase an individual guide at mamieks.com/store to help you implement the learnings and continue to enhance your rockstar manager skills.
This article was based on episode 72 The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.