Create your company culture intentionally: Otherwise it will create itself

I am always urging my CEO members to hire, promote and fire to their company’s core values.So what do you do if you haven’t established core values in your company or feel like your company culture has strayed from your original intention?

A good exercise is to get your management team together for the purpose of defining your company’s core values. You do want a good representation, so if your management team is small, then invite others so you have 10 or so in the room. And don’t just settle for inviting long-term employees. Often your newer employees can give you a better idea of what behaviors they are noticing. Be prepared, you may be surprised … and disappointed.

Brainstorm keywords and phrases

Record them on an easel pad or whiteboard. Combine those that represent the same value. Then let everyone vote.
I prefer to give each participant a certain number of sticky dots (available at any office supply store). I suggest giving each person four to six dots since you want to narrow your key core values to no more than six. Have them place a dot by each core value that resonates with them. Only one dot per value. This excess should produce your top six.

Break the group into triads

Small groups allow for more participation. Have them list three to five specific behaviors that might be an example of each of the six. For example, if one of your core values is customer service, an example of a behavior might be returning a customer’s voice message within one hour. Then come together as a group and decide which behaviors you will use as examples to share with the rest of the staff. Now you have specific behaviors that everyone can associate with that are unique to your company.

Roll it out to the entire company by holding a companywide meeting

Create posters and post them around the office. When you see someone demonstrating one of your core values, acknowledge them publicly. Many companies use spot bonuses such as a $10 or $20 gift card. Immediate rewards are very powerful. Place your core values on your website, business cards, invoices and emails.

Whenever you have a chance to mention them, do so

What are the risks if you do not have defined core values? Well, there is a saying that a company is a shadow of its leader. Whether you like it or not, your people are watching you. Your behavior sets the bar for what is acceptable in your company. If you don’t approve of certain behaviors ask yourself “Which of my behaviors might indicate that this is acceptable behavior?”

Culture is intentional. You either create what you want or it will evolve into what your employees can get away with. It’s your choice. ●

Pete Michaels is a Chair at Vistage International.