Similar to what organizations commonly call “Core Values,” Unique Essentials represent the values that serve as guiding principles as we go about fulfilling our purpose. They help us filter out distractions and align our actions with our collective, guiding beliefs. We use the word “unique” because, though each word or phrase may be used by others, this combination is unique to us. We use the word “essential” because we strive to never operate or act in a way that contradicts these values.
Over the past year and a half, we have placed a renewed focus on saturating our organization with these Unique Essentials. We are firm in the belief that this is a critical component of our culture. These Unique Essentials are not simply words on paper, they reflect core beliefs—commitments we expect every member of our team to make. We want everyone to know them, apply them, and live them.
If your organization has not identified values that guide how you pursue your purpose, I encourage you to do so. It is a game-changing way to positively shape your culture and drive alignment among your team. Once you select your guiding essentials, the following four steps will help your values come to life and begin impacting your culture in a meaningful way:
- Make them visible. Seeing your organization’s values in print will make your team more likely to remember them. Find creative ways to put them in front of your team on a regular basis. Our Unique Essentials are printed on hammocks and coffee mugs that we gave our team members as gifts at our annual staff retreat. The possibilities here are endless!
- Talk about them often. This step seems simple, but it is an easy place to stumble. Initially, there is a lot of momentum when core values are introduced. However, it is easy to get back into the everyday routine and put talk of the values on the shelf. Resist this! Remember, these are core beliefs that you want to shape your culture. Mention the values in emails to team members; choose a different value as the theme for each of your staff meetings; bring them up in one-on-one check-ins. Don’t worry about overdoing it; keep your values front and center.
- Apply them daily. This is where the rubber meets the road. Making the values visible and talking about them often are means toward the end of applying them in daily interactions and decision making. Once team members know the values and understand the meaning behind each one, every action should be filtered through them. Every decision should align with them. Encourage team members when you see them putting core values into action and challenge team members to find new ways to embody the values. When important team decisions are being made, ask the question, “Is this consistent with our values?”
- Empower the team to own the values. If your values are going to shape your culture, they must be owned by the entire team, not just by one or two individuals at the top of the org chart. Paint a compelling picture of the future that can exist when these values drive behavior. Invite team members to describe their picture of the values in action. Ask every member of the team to own the values, and to hold one another accountable to modeling them every day.
Could a renewed focus on values be a game changer for your organization? In which of the above areas are you strongest? In which area do you have the most opportunity for growth?