The power of values + a good hashtag + action

To some, company core values may seem more like a cute marketing stunt than anything.

I understand why people might feel this way. We’ve watched many companies treat them as such. They go through the exercise to come up with words that sound good, make a cool looking poster and throw them up on their wall.

Mission accomplished. And then they are on to the next task.

If that is all it is, then the effort is quite hollow and meaningless.

But, when you stumble across a team or company that is deeply rooted with their values, everything feels different.

There is intention. Purpose. Action that is driven by their words, their convictions.

In 2015, REI, the mammoth specialty outdoor retailer and nation’s largest consumer co-op, showed us this in action. Despite the opportunistic metric that Americans spent 1.7 billion dollars on Black Friday (up 21 percent from the year before), REI knew the day was somehow violating their core values.

At their core is the belief that life is richer, more connected and complete when we choose to spend it outdoors with the people we love.

Encouraging consumers and their own employees to work starting at midnight on Thanksgiving didn’t jive with their core values.

So what did they do? They announced they were closing their doors on Black Friday and turning away from the dollars that day might bring. Even better, REI announced to their 12,000 employees at all 143 of their business locations that they would be paid for the day and encouraged to go outside and spend the day with their family and friends. The hashtag #OptOutside was born and quickly sent a powerful message to their shared-value followers.

REI displayed these important elements about the power of core values:

  • They must be rooted. The best teams and organizations have deeply rooted values that drive their behavior. The values are their compass for the road ahead. The poster on the wall comes to life and is a constant reminder of what is at their core for how they show up.
  • They are shared. Compelling values attract followers that share your values. The brand becomes solidified and created together in a symbiotic dance due to the values that are shared by all.
  • They are lived. The values are seen in action by the way your people lead each day. The values are felt by the experience people have with your company. And, even when not always convenient, those from a distance can see your values being lived in actions and decisions made.

To mediocre teams and organizations, values don’t mean much. To high-performing and compelling cultures, they are everything.

They also ultimately lead to financial success. After REI’s decision, the company saw a 26 percent increase in online traffic and an overwhelming boost of morale to their people and followers.

How will your values come to life today?


Jason V. Barger is a globally celebrated keynote speaker, leadership coach and author of “Thermostat Cultures,” “Step Back from the Baggage Claim” and “ReMember.” He is founder of Step Back Leadership Consulting, a Columbus-based company that works with businesses and organizations worldwide.