Whether you’re building your own business or have been tasked with leading a team, it’s impossible to imagine doing so without also setting the tone for the values of that team. You attract the types of people that resonate with your culture, and values are the DNA of any team. So you have a choice to make: craft those values with intent or be victim to the garden of values growing amuck because nobody is tending to them. But one way or another your culture will reflect your choice. 

“You inherit the mindset and attitudes of the people you’re around the most. Curate your tribe and you can reprogram your mind.”

—Martin Kamenski

At Revel, we’re partial to the idea of using “behaviors” rather than “values” because they have two qualities that values sometimes don’t:

  1. they are action-oriented, and

  2. they’re observable.

Valuing something passively is usually not as impactful as doing something about it. So when we have a value we’re considering, we ask ourselves what it looks like for someone to do that or believe in that. It’s those action words we’re looking for so we can clue into the behavior that we’re really looking for from our teammate. And having something observable makes for far more interesting and practical coaching conversations as a team.

Imagine walking out of a team meeting and asking yourself, did Aaron value excellence in that meeting? The brain goes fuzzy, right? Now imagine instead of valuing excellence, you decide that one of your core behaviors is “question deeper.” When an idea was posed during the meeting, did anyone ask deeper probing questions? Or did they just accept it as-is without much inquiry? Now you have some clear points to work from!

So as we talked about in this post, if you’re already doing a good job of putting the “right people in the right seats” on your bus, then being intentional about the values or behaviors you want to lead with is how you make sure your people know whether this is even their bus or not. These are the “house rules” or the “way we agree to be together.” But beyond being house rules, clarity about your values has countless other benefits like more easily attracting talent, better employee retention, stronger relationships with clients… it can really become a strategic advantage if you put in the work. 

Which brings us to… how do you do this? We’ve broken it down into four elements that anyone can put into practice. 

Set them together.

Wear the glasses.

Inspect them often.

Make it easy.

Oh, does that say SWIM right there? Did we do that? I suppose that would be an easy way to remember this now, wouldn’t it?

Well ok then, let’s jump in the pool!

Set them together.

If you already have a team assembled, trying to lay a new set of values on them will be immensely challenging. You’re changing the rules on them once they’ve already committed to playing the game. So now is the time for team participation. Bring your team into the conversation so they can play an active role in this momentous culture-building activity.

Don’t have a team yet? It’s still a good idea to do this with a few trusted people in your life: friends, former coworkers, people you would love to work with if you could. You’ll wind up with a much richer set of ideas than if you sat down to do this by yourself. It’s amazing what a diversity of minds and experience can bring to a process, isn’t it?!

Wear the glasses.

Now as a leader, it’s your job to wear the glasses of these behaviors or values as you examine everything happening in your business. Just like some rose-colored glasses will paint everything you see that way, your new lens is whether or not what you’re seeing supports your values. You’ll want to highlight and call out the things that do, so celebrate them! Share those moments with the team! Make a standing section of your weekly meeting where the team can share stories of someone living those behaviors to the fullest.

Likewise, you’ll want to note moments where they aren’t happening for potential coaching opportunities. And invite the whole team to watch for this in your organization—including you! You’re Chief Example Setter when it comes to these things, so make sure to give space to be held accountable to them just like the rest of the team. Extra accountable, in fact.

Inspect them often.

You only want to edit or revise your values every so often—no more frequently than annually. Because it takes a little while for these changes to be adopted and felt throughout the organization. So moving through them too quickly will leave the team with whiplash. Every year or two initially, and then more like every five years or so once they feel solid. But you have to “inspect” them often. Once a quarter is a perfect cadence, as a part of your quarterly planning cycle. Ask for feedback from the team: where are we doing a great job of living these behaviors? Where could we do better? And most importantly, take action based on the feedback. That’s what keeps these values feeling alive in the organization. 

Make it easy.

There are a lot of ways to do this step, and this is where you get to flex some personality and put your own spin on it in a way that really reflects your culture. But however you do it, you need a way to make it very easy for your team to talk about your values / behaviors on a regular basis.

A couple of ideas? At Revel we found it helpful to turn each of our core behaviors into an emoji. We don’t talk about what they are publicly but here they are visually: 🏔🌱💯🌍 Once they were emoji-fied, they became easy to use EVERYWHERE! At the end of an email, in response to someone’s Slack message, in a chat… It became a shortcut way to call out the way we want to be together, which brings the team together!

Another idea is to take them and find a way to make physical representations of them. If you can find small things: a flashlight, a stuffed monkey, whatever, that represent your values, you can give a set to each employee to keep on their desk. They’re physical reminders of those things you want to see more of in your organization. Someone can loan someone else their flashlight for the day when they’re really living that value. Imagine walking past someone’s desk and seeing 20 flashlights on it. They’d really feel recognized for living that behavior! Anyway, however it happens, make sure you make it easy for these values to be a part of your cultural vocabulary as a team.

Excited? You should be! Go put these steps into practice for your team and let us know how it works out for you!

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