• Josh Levine

Your Values Suck (and what you can do about that)

I see it often: companies with values that are vague, disconnected, and hard to recall. If this seems familiar, you aren’t alone. Watch my takedown of the shit show that is most companies' key culture touchstone, and learn how to overcome the traits of the stinkiest by applying Great Mondays’ values framework.

TGIM, Josh


Speaker 1 (00:01): Hey everybody, it's Josh with Great Mondays, and I am working really hard with my clients to create some amazing values and too many people out there, too many companies have values that absolutely suck. And, uh, so I thought I'd record a video to tell you why they suck and what you can do about that. Here we go. Uh, number one, they're not strategic. So strategic decision is one where two options are valid. So if you have a value that says we're going to act with integrity, uh, the opposite of that is, I'm gonna lie in cheat. And if that's one of your values, that's pretty much just kind of a basic HR function. Like, let's just put a rule in for that. It is not a value. So what we need are, uh, thoughtful values that are strategic where we're choosing to do one thing over another. (01:02) Number two, nobody understands them. The problem with a lot of values is that there's no definition or, uh, the employees are not really well trained on what the values are, and that's a big problem. Number three is that everybody has the same ones. I'm sure you've seen it out there where it's innovation or safety or whatever it is, it's the same one. You're missing a big opportunity to be unique in the market, to recruit the right people to really have an articulation that is unique to you. Number four, there's way too many of 'em. Don't show me a list of 12 values. I can't remember any. My rule is five or less. Uh, sometimes you get down to three. That's the kind of the benchmark, but five or less. Other than that, I can't remember what they are. Or I needed some complex mnemonic device to remember them. (01:52) Number five, uh, finally, they're not connected. My job, i e they just sit on the wall. I don't really understand what they have to do with what I do. And that's a problem because then what's the point of having them? So they're underutilized. It's an underutilized tool. So what a good values look like. They're brief. So the headline is a short word or two. Number two, they're well defined. They have a definition, they're clear. Three, they're unique to you. They're limited in number number four and five. They're actionable, which means I know exactly what I can do and can't do, uh, because of them. So let me show you an example. We just did a whole big project for the DC public library, and here are the values that we came up with. Really cool, um, idea here where someone, uh, one of the culture ambassadors recognized that actually there's kind of this hierarchy to them, which is why we put them in this rainbow. But here they are. I'll start at the bottom. Give and get respect. This is about how we treat each other, uh, moving up, be a we is how we work together. Three, invest in us or moving up even further, how we grow as an organization. Four, welcome everyone, and five, stay rooted. That's how we advocate Speaker 2 (02:58): For our communities. So those are five values that are super compelling and unique to them. And, uh, one of the definitions, one of the, the, the attributes, right, is how we, uh, define them. So here is an example of, uh, a, a values. Each value gets a sheet, gets a one pager, and this is how we define it. We have the headline, nice and short, given get respect. We have three quick hits, right? So what it means in the, the short kind of, uh, little kind of quick notes, uh, on the, of the far edge of the page on the left side, what we mean. So this is the full definition number. Uh, the second column is what we do. These are some examples of behaviors. Then we have anti behaviors right here. What we don't do, uh, and then what we ask, which is really about that actionable. Uh, how do we connect it to the things that I'm doing are making decisions every day. Uh, here's the values framework that I just described. The name, the summary, what we mean, what we do, and what we ask, as well as what we don't do. That's my quick take on why your values suck and what you can do about it. Learn more about culture Design for high growth technology and social enterprise organization@greatmondays.com.

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