“With the right people, culture, and values, you can accomplish great things” -Tricia Griffith
Core values are used to outwardly express what an individual, organization or company stands for. They are helpful in explaining what is valued and what is held in high regard. In organizations and companies, core values are generally decided on at the highest level and pushed down to the rest of the individuals to adopt and adhere to.
We know core values are a key ingredient for many successful businesses. What if those same concepts could be applied at the team or department level? Lately, I have begun to consider how core values can be used for individual teams within an organization. The first thing to consider is that the department/teams core values must help support the overall core values of the organization. Assuming there is alignment, I believe having core values for a team can be helpful in many ways.
When selecting core values, keep these three concepts in mind:
- It needs to be a team exercise.
The process of selecting core values should not be something the leader chooses and directs their team to follow. In order to get buy-in, it is important for the team to be actively involved in the process of choosing their own values. If someone manages a large team, leadership can help individuals select the core values. The process must be very collaborative, and everyone’s ideas and suggestions need to be valued. The team will be much more apt to adopt these values as their own if they’re part of the development process.
- They should be succinct and easy to understand
Core values should be just long enough to convey the message that’s intended. If too long, core values tend to be harder to read and more difficult to explain. Some individuals will be tempted to be very specific about what the value looks like and how it can be measured. It’s better to keep it shorter and to allow for some flexibility than to be too specific and rigid. The core value itself should define an outcome or behavior rather than explain how to achieve something. The best core values are one sentence or less and paint a picture of what the value looks like. For example, one of the core values that our team developed was “Be open to the ideas around you – diverse perspectives have value.” This sends the message that we value the ideas of others; that no one person has all the answers. As such, it encourages collaboration and highlights how a diverse workforce can bring value to those around them.
- They are most effective when limited to 5 or less
When selecting core values, it’s important to not have too many items on the list. Core values are guideposts that help set the tone and direction for the team. While there is no hard and fast rule regarding how many values are permitted, my personal preference is to have no more than five. If the number becomes larger, it becomes more difficult to remember them. It is also easier for the message to become diluted and become less impactful. It is better to have a small number of core values that the team is passionate about and can remember.
In the next installment, I’ll talk about the key ways in which establishing core values can benefit a team.
This piece was originally posted on CIO Reflections, a blog created by Michael Saad, VP and CIO at University of Tennessee Medical Center. HIs diverse career path also includes leadership roles with TrustPoint Solutions and Henry Ford Health System. To follow him on Twitter, click here.
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