Experts agree: Organizational values are critical in guiding teams to actively uphold a shared mission and vision for ambitious impact. They inform collective behaviours, decision-making and standards of success. But, so often, organizations choose values that sound right without genuinely considering ways to actualize them. For example, 40% of Fortune 100 companies identify teamwork as a core value – yet we know that unhealthy team dynamics are one of the causes of current increases in burnout. How does a team invested in creating meaningful organizational values approach this process, given well-deserved skepticism around this corporate practice?
At beVisioneers, we wanted to make sure our team values not only reflected the way we aspire to work with one another, but also the program we aim to deliver. As a team that came together from diverse professional backgrounds and experiences, we had the task of establishing our team values while simultaneously selecting our first cohort and designing our inaugural fellowship program. Having read the research on what it takes to make values actionable, our team designed a process to lay the foundation for a values-oriented approach to our work.
- Intentionally align on values
To prepare for a team-wide conversation on values, the beVisioneers leadership team had conversations with each of their departments to build an understanding of team members’ values. These discussions were framed around the type of fellowship we wanted to create together and how we wanted to affect our fellows’ lives. Each department leader brought their team’s insights to a conversation that aimed to identify 5-7 common values across the broader team. During a 90 minute meeting, we drew from a list of values (like this one), shared what each value meant, and deliberated about how they aligned with what we heard from our teams. We ultimately landed on a preliminary list of five values to share back with the broader team for further shaping.
- Co-create what values look like in action
Co-creation is at the heart of everything we do at beVisioneers. In order to design values that resonated with our broader team, we brought our preliminary list to a team retreat. Over the course of a two hour session, we tested the values: Our team broke into groups so that 3-4 team members examined one of the five values in greater detail. To make the values concrete, we asked critical questions:
- What would they look like in action for our team?
- Did those actions genuinely reflect our team’s aspirations and way of being?
- If not, what needed to change to make the value more accurate?
To fuel creativity and make things fun, we gamified our approach, introducing “values Taboo” to describe what the value meant to us without using predetermined words. Our two hours resulted in a modified set of values which the whole team identified, as well as statements to help illustrate what the value meant in practice.
- We uphold personal, planetary and community balance in the design of our long-term and short-term strategies.
- We encourage one another to minimize our environmental impact and promote sustainable practices as a team.
- We design for longevity, build milestones and checkpoints to adapt, and support one another’s wellbeing.
- We recognize the need for transparency and structure to achieve a common goal.
- We actively seek different opinions and feedback, internally and externally, to achieve the best results.
- We appreciate being part of the process and champion the final collective decision.
- We go beyond our comfort zones to try new approaches and methodologies.
- We meaningfully question ourselves and give others the space to do the same.
- We contribute our perspectives to constructively iterate an idea.
- We are slow to judge and quick to be curious.
- We practice self-awareness & embrace discomfort as a chance to grow.
- We intentionally seek out unheard stories and voices.
- We set goals and use processes to hold ourselves accountable.
- When initiating a project, we assess our methods in accordance with our values and hold them into account.
- We hold space to self reflect & discuss how we act out our values
- Curate spaces for discussing how values unfold in reality
We are still in the beginning stages of our team formation, and recognize that articulating our shared values is only a means to helping us achieve them. As we move forward as a team, we are designing opportunities to check in with one another, to evaluate how we are living up to the standards we set for ourselves. We invite others to join in and share with us how we are doing – our fellows will certainly be part of evolving our values in years to come, as well as holding us accountable to them.
Do you have a great method of designing values? If so, share it with us – we would love to learn from you!