Part 2: Enriching Core Values
What do you do when you’ve finished writing your Core Values? Next, it’s time to create specific definitions, examples, transgressions and collect iterative feedback. (Yes, the word “transgressions” may sound a little scary—but it is an important aspect of enriching your Core Values.)
Drips is here to help you explore how this process works.
The Importance of Definitions
Early on in Drips’ formation, our Co-founder and CEO, A.C. Evans realized that Lean (one of our Core Values) meant something different to him than it did to our head of technology. So, even though these two leaders both valued and followed the same word as a Core Value, they interpreted the word differently. This is why specific definitions for your Core Values are essential. Without them, your Core Values can be interpreted in vastly different ways.
Think about the word Happiness as a Core Value for a moment. For one person, happiness might mean feeling a sense of belonging and respect in a work environment, whereas another person may feel that “happiness” means simply being content. While neither of these interpretations is incorrect, they are not the same thing either. When it comes time to measure how a particular employee embodies a Core Value, you need a set definition with which to evaluate in a consistent way. That’s why it’s important to explain what a particular Core Value means. It encourages team members to align their actions with a specific definition.
How to Define Core Values
When we say “definitions,” we don’t necessarily mean dictionary definitions (though that is a good place to start). Instead, your definitions should follow the value of “I can’t, but we can.” In other words, your Core Values should emphasize the importance of the team. After all, it takes more than one person to make a company successful.
Let’s use an example of one of Drips’ Core Values to demonstrate this idea. We define Lean in the following ways:
- Saves cycles—be efficient with your (and other’s) time and resources
- Make data-driven decisions, suggestions, and arguments
- Prove ideas via minimum viable products (MVP) to fail fast, while considering the domino effect
- Focus and execute against a prioritized plan
Within these definitions, there is a reoccurring emphasis on how individual actions affect the whole company. For example, “being efficient with your (and other’s) time” encourages our team members to think beyond themselves, encompassing the aforementioned value of “I can’t, but we can.” It’s important to emphasize the team rather than an individual’s success.
Creating Examples of Core Values
In addition to providing definitions for Core Values, it’s also important to give examples of those definitions—the clearer you can make something, the better! Ideally, you should have at least two examples for each definition.
Continuing with our previous example of Lean, Drips gives the following examples for the “Saves cycles” definition:
- Looks up answers in knowledge base first—respects teammates cycles
- Is very thoughtful when doing calls and scheduling meetings to include impactful/necessary team members only
These examples help give team members an idea of the types of behaviors they should emulate to embody a Core Value. It also provides a much-needed tangible context to the values of your company in a specific way. This eliminates confusion and helps with alignment across the entire company.
Any time you provide good examples, you should think about bad ones as well. At Drips, we call these “transgressions” and use them to show what ignoring particular Core Values looks like. This helps illustrate the negative impact ignoring Core Values can have on the team.
Even though focusing on negative things isn’t fun, it does help to emphasize the importance of your Core Values. Giving examples of transgressions can help team members identify growth opportunities as well as provide them with a way to hold themselves accountable. If a team member looks at a transgression example and realizes “Oh wow, I do that sometimes…”, it can help them become more aligned with that particular Core Value.
Getting Feedback and Revisiting Your Values
Creating Core Values is an important task, and it’s something that shouldn’t be done by a small group in a silo. Getting iterative feedback from team members and executives creates quality Core Values that help people embody the principles of a company. But it’s also important to regularly evaluate these values. At Drips, we review our Core Values quarterly to revisit existing values or even create new ones with the feedback we receive. It’s a way of letting our team influence our Core Values and a great way to celebrate their ideas.