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How to Launch & Live Company Values: Part II

Haven't seen Part I yet? Check out the why and what of values first then come back to learn how to launch company values.

Alright, you've...

✅ put on your beginner's mindset hat and channeled your inner 5-year old

observed your team's interactions for a day

can finish this statement... The people here are really all about ________________.

What did you learn? Did anything surprise you, or was it everything you expected? This simple statement can be surprisingly revealing (In fact, this activity is something Zappos does when they invite visitors to spend the day with them to test if they're living their values).

Where do we go from here?

Back to the treasure metaphor, of course! You've got your treasure chest. Now it's time to open, unpack, and understand it by diving into phase 1 of launching your company values.

Phase 1: Understand and Define the Values

The first phase is all about upfront commitment, exploration, and clarification. Think of it as opening the treasure chest and then sorting through each piece of treasure to uncover what to keep and what to discard. Here's what it looks like:

Get the leadership team to commit to having values.

This is non-negotiable. The values will never be anything more than words in a Google Doc if the leadership isn't championing and exemplifying the company values.

Here's what you can ask them (even better, get their commitment in writing):

  • Are you willing to make long-term decisions, even if the short-term is painful?

  • Why do company values matter to you?

  • How do they contribute to the success of [company]?

Why? This creates the foundation of commitment, identifies the leadership's motivation, and can remind when values aren't being lived long-term.

Determine Key Influencers' values.

Who in your company represents the values you want to cultivate in your company? Why? Do they represent the team's diversity (e.g., race, gender, sexual orientation, cultural identity, etc.)? Do they represent all business functions and units?

Once you've identified the key influencers, set up a time to facilitate small group (3-4 people) sessions. I recommend two things when facilitating these conversations:

  1. Be fully present and practice global listening. Really listen for what's not being said—change in tone, speed of speech, body language, or hesitation. It creates the opportunity to probe and gather more profound insights.

  2. Spend more energy on the values that aren't being honored. Listen for feelings that signal that needs aren't being met (e.g., frustration, indifference, or restlessness), and find the "antidote value," using the Nonviolent Communication's Needs Inventory as a guide.

When you do these two things, you'll find the most valuable gems in the treasure chest. Here are nine questions you can ask to uncover the five types of values:

  • Pretend you're visiting [company] for the day to observe who we are and how we work. How would you finish this statement, "The people here are really all about _______?"

  • Tell me a story about your greatest memory at [company]? What was happening? Who was there? What values were being practiced at that moment?

  • What do we do differently at [company] that make us unique from competitors?

  • Our mission at [company] is [state mission]. What practices do you experience on a day-to-day basis that support that vision?

  • What experiences does [company] strive to offer our team through the "ups and downs"? What words would you use to articulate those values?

  • What are the foundational values we need as a team for our other values to work? Think of them as the foundation of a building. The building will collapse if we have a weak foundation.

  • What values help make the best and efficient decisions? What does that look like at [company]?

  • What values do we practice that protect us? For example, "humility" helps protect us from ego or elitism.

  • What were you looking for when you started at [company]? What does it look like in reality? What do you need to do to best serve the team while being successful as a business?

Determine the leadership team members' values.

Set up a time to speak with each leadership team individually. You can ask the same questions that you asked the small groups or vary them slightly. We did the latter.

  • What situations invoke the most intense emotions you've felt, both positively and negatively, at [company]?

  • What characteristics have helped [company] survive?

  • What characteristics give [company] strength?

  • What are some foundational values we need as a team for our other values to work? Think of them as the foundation of a building.

  • What values help make the best and efficient decisions? What does that look like at [company]?

  • What is one high standard you wouldn't sacrifice for anything?

  • What experiences does [company] strive to offer our team through the "ups and downs?"

  • What values do we practice that protect us? For example, "humility" helps protect us from ego or elitism.

  • What values did you undervalue when you started but highly value now? And vice versa.

Collect the data and conduct a qualitative analysis.

Take extensive notes or record and transcribe each conversation. Then create an excel spreadsheet. In our case, I organized each comment by data source, stakeholder type, theme, secondary theme, and question and then identified the highest recurring themes.

Phase 2: Test the Values

Phase 2 is making sense of your newfound treasure and displaying it in a way that has the most significant impact on your audience. Your audience won't get much from seeing just a treasure chest filled with gold, gems, and antiquities (maybe besides envy).

After conducting the qualitative analysis:

  1. Draft the definitions of your values using language from the qualitative data

  2. Share the draft with the leadership team for feedback

  3. Update and then share the draft with your entire team to ask for their feedback

Everyone needs to feel included and be a part of the decision-making process. Why? Because culture is co-created.

The aim of getting feedback is to:

  1. Clarify what these values mean and understand how team members interpret them.

  2. Assess how committed team members are to these values.

Phase 3: Confirm & Communicate the Values

The third phase takes everything you learned in phases one and two. Your nicely arranged, most valued treasure is what inspires your next adventure and how you approach it. The same goes for values.

Confirm the language.

Based on the team feedback, revise the definitions, and share them with the leadership team to confirm the final copy.

A few words of wisdom... Take your time. Be intentional. The word choice is crucial to rolling out your company values. They need to resonate with the team while also being something you can share publicly with your community (e.g., users, clients, and future job applicants).

Communicate the Values.

It's time to roll out your newly defined values and give them the life they deserve. What can you do to communicate them effectively?

  • Announce them at your company's all-hands meeting.

  • Collect stories that support the values and share them regularly. We share them in our all-hands meetings, weekly team messaging, Devexer of the week spotlight, and kudos channels.

  • Ask questions during the interview process to make sure that there is value alignment.

  • Create a values-specific activity in new team member onboarding.

  • Have the People Team (or HR) work with teams to discuss how they can infuse the values into their existing processes, communications, and culture.

  • Incorporate them into your performance management process. We ask questions about living values in each coaching cycle. We ask them in three places: the self-assessment, upward feedback for the team lead, and downward feedback for direct reports.

  • Add values to your recognition tool. At Devex, we use Lattice, so every time a team member gives kudos, they can select the related values. That way we can see which values are tagged the most and least.

  • Integrate them into the messaging. I add our values to everything we do for the People Team - monthly team updates, weekly guided mindfulness sessions, monthly workshops, and team projects or initiatives (they help with change management!).

  • Include them on your team page and add to blog posts if you have a company blog.

Phase 4: Keep Values Alive

The last phase is all about honoring the values and internalizing them across the entire team. Like with your treasure, you need to spread the wealth to serve as a reminder, motivator, and compass for your next adventure.

That's why communicating your new values the right way in phase three is so important. It triggers the actions to take, and the rollout can do most of the work to keep the values alive from day one.

You need them to be naturally present everywhere. Here are a couple of other things you can do to keep your values' heartbeat alive:

  • Make sure the values are a part of internal and external processes on all teams. How do they apply to sales, engineering, marketing, finance, etc.?

  • Regularly assess where your company values still need to be better integrated (more on this in Part IV).

What to Expect Next

That's how you launch company values. It's an amazing, inspiring project to work on. And it really does feel like a treasure hunt.

So, what's next? Like in any project, there are successes and learnings. In Part III, we'll cover common pitfalls, major successes, and key lessons.


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