How to Define Your Company’s Values and Make Them Stick

Let’s start at the very beginning. (I hear it’s a very good place to start. #musicaljokes)

What the heck are values?

Values are our standards of behavior, our judgment of what is important in life. If I were to ask you about the things you value most in your personal life you might answer with words like family, honesty, or compassion.

Here’s the cool thing about values.

When we’re clear about our personal values we are better able to align our actions with what is most important to us. And often that alignment of our values and our actions brings with it a deep satisfaction and fulfillment. #warmfuzzyfeelings

Think about it. If you really value family, but you haven’t spoken to your mom for several weeks and still haven’t met your new two-year-old niece, there’s a part of you that probably feels unsettled. But if you value family and you’ve been spending lots of quality time with your loved ones, you likely feel a deep sense of satisfaction and personal agency.

The same is true in your business. When you are clear about what you value as a business, and align your efforts with those values, here is what you can expect:

  • A strong sense of shared purpose throughout your company
  • A team with greater intrinsic motivation
  • And, some clear benchmarks for behavioral expectations

In his book The E-Myth, Michael E. Gerber offers this reflection on personal integrity that highlights the benefits of having strong values:

“The work we do is a reflection of who we are. If we are sloppy at it, it’s because we are sloppy inside. If we are late at it, it’s because we’re late inside. If we are bored by it, it’s because we are bored inside, with ourselves, not with the work. The most menial work can be a piece of art when done by an artist. So the job here is not outside of ourselves, but inside ourselves. How we do our work becomes a mirror of who we are inside.”

In my view, values are one of the most important components of any business. However, they can be tricky because the process of creating and implementing values is cyclical. Values have to grow and evolve as your business grows and evolves–they must be fluid.

At MFF, we think of this cycle in three phases.

It’s the beginning of 2018 when I’m writing this and we have just begun a new cycle. So, let’s dive in and I’ll share the precise recipe we use to navigate each of these three phases.


Phase #1: Explore your values


  • Acknowledge the need to create or revise the values of your company. We have had our current list of values at MFF for the past three years. We have changed so much as a team and a company in that time and we felt our values needed to reflect those changes.


  • Crowdsource values from everyone at your organization. At MFF we do this using a series of in-person meetings and surveys to collect ideas and eventually narrow them down.


  • Have an open, inclusive process for sourcing your values. Encouraging everyone to participate will increase buy-in and ownership of your final values.


Phase #2: Define your values


  • Once you’ve collected and reviewed all of your potential values, narrow down your list to no more than 10.


  • Assign a few team members to clearly define each of your final values in a way that is easy to understand and remember. Finding the right words and phrases to articulate your values can be tricky, it may take several drafts. At MFF, Mark and I took on this task and it took a few weeks for us to land on the final wording.


  • Here are MFF’s new team values for 2018:
    • Inclusiveness // Everyone is welcome.
    • Responsibility // We take responsibility for our impact.
    • Humility // We acknowledge that we don’t know what we don’t know.
    • Dependability // We use trust as our greatest currency.
    • Fun // We create joyful experiences.
    • Kindness // We chose to see the best in others.
    • Candor // We talk about what is going well and what is not going well.
    • Excellence // We give our best and expect the same from others.
    • Service // We treat others how they want to be treated.
    • Growth // We get 1% better every day.


Phase #3: Embody your values


  • Share your values with your team. Make sure they understand what each value means and how it is relevant to the work they do every day. At MFF, we rolled out our new values at our weekly Team Meeting and discussed how each value contributed to our work with each other and with our Ninjas (aka clients).


  • Provide multiple opportunities for your team to be reminded of your values. Create a poster of your values and hang it somewhere visible. Review them at your team meetings. Use your values as behavioral benchmarks in performance reviews.


  • The ultimate goal is for each member of your team to have a deep personal connection to your company’s values. Ideally, that deep understanding translates into habits and practices that align with those values.


The magic of clear company values is not just in knowing them, but in living them. If your values become a random list of words that just live on a plaque or poster in your business, then I’d gently suggest you’re doing it wrong.

Your company’s values are most useful when they are daily reminders of what is most important to you and your team, and when you proactively work to align your actions with those values. I promise that when you have that alignment between your values and your actions a deep satisfaction and fulfillment will follow.

Now doesn’t that sound like a great place to work?


Does your company have some core values? What are they?

Don’t have any company values yet? What’s holding you back?

Please share in the comments below. I can’t wait to hear from you!


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