A church or a business won’t get to their goal without fuel—the culture created by meaningful values provides that fuel.
Core values are behaviors that shape the culture of an organization. If vision answers the question where, and a playbook answers the question what, and the right people with the right stuff answers the question who, values answer the question, how. How do we behave around here? Values are the behavioral rumble strips of an organization.
When driving on a freeway, if I drift out of my lane onto the shoulder, I hit a rumble strip. The ensuing shaking and loud noise created by my tires hitting the rumble strip cause me to instinctively course-correct. So it is with organizational values.
You may be reading this and wondering, “Why should I care about identifying values? How do I start getting my arms around values?” Let me give you a few ideas:
How to identify core values
Identifying core values starts with asking the right questions. Here are a few to get you started:
- “What do we look like when we’re at our best organizationally? Is this trait inherent and natural for us? Has it been apparent in the organization for a long time? What do we wish we looked like at our best? There is also a degree of aspiration to values as well. But it shouldn’t be so aspirational that it’s laughable.” ~ Jenni Catron
- If I could clone anyone in the organization, who would that be? Why? What stands out about them that would me make want ten more just like them?
Write down your answers to these questions. If you are the senior leader in the organization, I recommend you ask and answer these questions on your own first. Then take them to your leadership team for discussion and refining.
How to amplify identified core values
Once again, asking the right questions helps us amplify identified values:
- What does each value mean for us as an organization? For real?
- Why does this particular value matter? What’s there to gain if we behave this way? What’s there to lose if we don’t?
- What specific behaviors are behind each value?
So as an example, let’s use one of our core values at Converge Coaching . . . “Compassion-driven.” The word compassion means different things to different people, but what does it mean at our company? It means everything we do—coaching, mentoring, huddles, consulting—comes out of a deep love for leaders, and a compassionate understanding of the uniquely complicated role of ministry leadership.
Why does compassion matter to us? Because pastoral ministry can be isolating, demanding, and exhausting. Who can a pastor go to when they are struggling? They need a safe, confidential, compassionate listening ear, and we provide that to them. It helps them lead better, longer, and have more fun along the way.
What behaviors are behind the “compassion-driven” value? We listen more than we talk. We coach, mentor, and consult with great care and concern for the health and welfare of leaders. We step into our clients’ pain.
Answering these amplifying questions creates clarity, an appropriate sense of urgency, and a common language for a church or a business to use.
The last piece of the today’s post centers around how we use core values to shape the culture we need. I’ll just touch on these.
How to shape culture using our identified and amplified core values
- Teaching – You get what you teach. So give a series of talks on your identified values at least once each year.
- Modeling – Values are caught than taught. You and your team are the culture. It starts with you. If you and your leaders live the values, most of the people you lead will follow.
- Celebration – Try to catch your team living out the values. When that happens, make a big deal about it, both privately and publicly. What gets celebrated gets repeated.
- Accountability – This is where the rubber meets the road. If your identified and amplified values really matter, you’ll make decisions consistent with them. Hiring decisions. Firing decisions. Directional decisions. Etc.
Here’s the good news today: You can do this. You don’t have to be a unicorn leader to accomplish what I’ve laid out today. Yes, you probably will need some help with it, so we’re here to assist. But you can do this. And . . . you must do this. If you’re serious about the organization you lead getting to its destination, you need fuel. A healthy, values-driven culture is that fuel.
Rooting and praying for you,