In last week’s post we explored the subject, Why Vision? We talked about the magnetic power vision exerts on an organization, and how to begin imagining a vision and then casting it. Vision is about destination. In football terms, it’s about the end zone.
Today I want to wrap us this two-week “Why” mini-series by talking about how meaningful values deeply impact the organization we lead. A church or a business won’t get to their end zone without fuel—the culture created by meaningful values provides that fuel.
So today I’d like us to explore what values are and why you as a leader need to take them seriously.
Core values are behaviors. If vision answers the question where, values answer the question how. How do we behave around here? Values are the organizational rumble strips of the company or church you lead.
You may be wondering, how do I start getting my arms around values?
Let’s start by trying to explain what they’re not.
- Aspirational – Although some degree of aspiration exists when it comes to values, the gap between aspiration and reality can’t be ridiculous . . . or it’s not a value.
- Permission to play – For example, some organizations list “integrity” as one of their core values. I get it . . . integrity matters. But isn’t integrity simply a behavior that is required for any person to play on the field? Core values are organizational differentiators. They make your organization unique. Integrity—in my mind at least—is really a permission-to-play behavior. Every organization should prize integrity.
How to identify core values?
- Questions to ask
- My friend Jenni Catron explains values identification this way: “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.”
- 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?
How to amplify core values:
We add clarity and punch to our identified values by asking reflective questions:
- What does each value mean? For real? Park here for a while and really add detail to the meaning of each value.
- Why does it 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? For example, one of our organizational values at Converge Coaching is “compassion-driven.” What does “compassion-driven” mean for us? It means we actually feel what our clients are going through. We care about their personal lives first and their organization second. This value matters because it’s frighteningly easy to become jaded and hard-hearted. One behavior behind this “compassion-driven” value is we step into our clients’ pain.
Answering the above questions creates clarity, a sense of urgency, and a common language for a church or a business.
How can we use core values to shape culture?
- Teach – Can I encourage you to create space to talk about these behavioral rumble strips in gatherings large and small? To keep them front and center with your team?
- Model – Values are more caught than taught. By the way, you and your leaders are the culture. Values start with you, and cascade down through the organization.
- Celebrate – When someone in the organization you lead lives out a core value, make sure you celebrate. Make a big deal out of it. Reward that behavior. You see, what gets celebrated and rewarded tends to get repeated.
- Accountability – In healthy organizations, core values mean something. The team members understand the values, what those values mean, why they matter, the behaviors associated with each value—and they hold each other accountable to those behaviors.
Here’s the bottom line: Culture wins. A healthy culture emanating from clear, meaningful, and lived out values provides the organization you lead with the energy it needs to get to the compelling future you’ve painted. A toxic culture does the exact opposite. It drains the energy your organization needs to reach the “end zone.”
Why vision? Why values? Because God’s given you work that has eternal implications. The work you do—and the people who help you do that work—matter. And those who are recipients of your collective work matter too! And . . . it’s so much more fun to work with a team that knows where’s its going, and how its going to behave on the way to where they’re going.
Can I challenge you to give vision and values the time/energy they deserve? Your team will thank you (well, most of them will). The people you serve will thank you. You’ll lead better . . . longer . . . and enjoy it more.
Rooting and praying for you,