Core values are an incredibly powerful tool to coach, teach, and train the people in your business. If communicated regularly—with intent, worked on tirelessly, and lived out daily, they will lead to a purposeful business. Owners and managers can utilize core values to teach ideas about work, such as kindness to those around you, how customers should feel about your services, independent decision making, quality of work, advancing yourself, showing gratitude, and on and on. However, it is important that the people working in the business understand the meaning and application of the company’s core values.
One shining example of how to apply core values in a way that makes them strong enough to build purpose is Zappos, the shoe company now owned by Amazon. In his book Delivering Happiness, founder Tony Hsieh asked his employees the question: What does Zappos culture mean to you? The intent was to create a book from their unedited answers. Not only was the book written, but the results for the company were also excellent—the employees of Zappos mastered their core values and taught others how to utilize them daily.
Most companies do a great job in the planning phase of developing core values and purpose. The executive team may sit in a boardroom or attend an event that helps them envision an inspired workforce and discover purpose for their small business. This can be incredibly effective; they may come back energized to teach others how to follow the roadmap of the core values and vision of culture they established. But as the excitement of the initial effort fades, many companies lose sight of the plans they made to inspire others. If this sounds familiar, don’t despair. There is hope.
Following are five activities that will help drive your core values to create an inspired, purposeful workforce.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
The first needed activity is likely the most important and difficult to accomplish: clear and frequent communication. Leaders must communicate the messages established by the executive team, assure that mid-level managers or supervisors understand the meaning and purpose, and then repeat that message until they hear the same back from their team and customers.
Too often, leaders will stop communicating critical messaging around core values and purpose long before there is understanding or buy-in from the team. To avoid this, there should be a sentiment throughout the business in relation to core values and purpose that “this is all our manager talks about.” This is when a leader knows that they have achieved effective communication. Eventually the discussion around core values and purpose will be echoed throughout the business in small, meaningful ways and large, impactful messaging through key employees, as discussed below.
Mastering the art of communication between the executive or owner level and the employees will take time and significant effort, but that effort will come back tenfold when employees begin to reinforce the ideas from your company’s core values and then start driving the purpose of the business.
Coach Second-Level Managers to Drive Core Values and Purpose
Effective organizations spend a significant amount of time developing their second-level managers. Because of the trust, development, and support given to this group they are key to driving core values and purpose in the business. These employees have direct contact with many people, both frontline employees and customers. Assuring their buy-in to the company’s core values and purpose is key to delivering on the promises that top-level managers make in their communication.
If there is a breakdown of messaging at this level, it is incredibly hard to gain traction with the rest of the organization. Support and direct interaction of second-level managers is needed to drive the next three activities.
Provide Opportunities for Individual Contributions
In the restoration industry there are ample opportunities for individual contribution to both core values and a company’s purpose. If the executive team has communicated well, every person on staff is capable of reminding others that they can contribute in small ways. This is done through recognizing the good work of others, making small financial contributions (that the company may match up to a limit), or employees simply living out the company’s core values through their service.
If there is not a specific driver in your business or one has not been developed, consider joining others in the industry who support local charities, non-profits, or national programs like Restoring Kindness and Team Rubicon. Every action to support core values and purpose in your business helps to strengthen the bond that employees have to your company.
Connect People to the Purpose
When the three above items are completed effectively, results will start to show. Keep practicing them while adding the step of connecting people with your purpose. This is the point in which your core values are lived out and on display regularly inside your company, while also being visible to your clients.
Eyeglass company Warby Parker lives out their purpose on a regular basis. One of their core values is to create an environment where employees can think big, have fun, and do good. This is exhibited through their program to distribute one pair of glasses to a person in need for every pair that is purchased. The company also believes that everyone has the right to (eye)sight. This results in employees knowing they are doing good while working with Warby Parker, helping others see.
There is a growing list of companies that are connecting their people to the purpose of their business. Seek them out and use them as examples to model how your company presents both internally and externally.
Empower Employees who Inspire Others
It is likely that one or more of your employees will be a clear leader in demonstrating your company’s core values and being an inspiration for others they interact with. Nurture the influence that these people will have on the entire team and on the image of your company; give them a platform to teach others how to interact with the world and develop a purpose-driven organization through living out their core values.
You may ask these core-value leaders to organize programs around teaching others how to use these tools in their daily life or talk about how they include the company’s core values and purpose in their work. Seeing and hearing how they incorporate these items in their work and life will increase the chances that another person will begin to follow them. This is a satisfying step in the evolution of your core values and purpose. It is the ultimate payoff for the work that senior managers do to cultivate purpose in the business.
Using core values as a guide for business interaction with the world can be powerful for both a company’s brand and employees. When efforts are completed daily and effectively the results will be meaningful and real to everyone involved. By taking the work that was started in a boardroom during the discovery phase and following through with a consistent pursuit, you will likely be excited about the results.