Values, values, values. They are sometimes really hyped up these days aren’t they?
We just heard from Miki Agrawal of THINX and TUSHY (who graces the cover of Issue #14 of Rank & File Magazine) on how her soft-skills like company and personal values have been integral to her success, and you might be thinking, I need values too! Or, oh no I’m good I already have brand values for my purpose-driven business.
But, do you really understand what values are? Do you know the point of having company values?
If you claim to have more than 4 or 5 company values, if have trouble remembering what your values statements are, or if you don’t actually use them daily to motivate you and your team and to bring your brand messaging and sales efforts alive — then you probably don’t really understand values.
Values are one of the most important, but often most misunderstood things for purpose-driven entrepreneurs. Today we are going to do a mini crash-course on all things company values so that you actually USE values effectively in your business.
I was first introduced to brand values at the first and only other company I worked for after graduating from hospitality management school. This company was a large, luxury hospitality product and one of the most respected brands in its industry. I had the pleasure of working closely with that entire company — starting as an intern, spending time with the dishwashers, housekeepers and waiters, and moving up to working side-by-side with the executive team in the corporate office for 6 years. This experience gave me a really great insight into how cultural decisions (like brand values) trickle down and seep into every area of the business operations and how they ultimately affect the company’s marketing efforts and customer satisfaction.
So often in the corporate world, and even in small businesses, we tend to select brand values and slap them up on the wall in the form of a mission statement or vision statement. They don’t actually infiltrate our companies. And when this happens, there is really no point in investing time and energy into developing brand values (other than the fact that they might “look fancy” on the wall or on your website.)
Did you know that true values can help us to ….
– Explain what our company is
– Share our company’s story
– Create a compelling brand experience
– Communicate the heart and mission of our social impact
– Be able to say no to things that don’t match our values
– Feel confident with making aligned strategic decisions
– Find personal fulfillment in running our businesses
All of these things, and more, are made possible by understanding our values.
Many of us think we understand values, but we don’t. Or, we are not using them effectively for our social good brands, to do all of these things. And if we don’t know what values truly are and how to use them, they do no good at all.
So, on today’s show we are going to cover:
– Why so many people are confused about values
– What values are (and what they are not)
– How to find out what your true values are
Why So Many People are Confused About Values
Whenever something gets really hyped up in the business world, the meaning behind it starts to get diluted. This is exactly what has happened with company values. Everyone thought, “Hey, they have values. I need them too!” So, they went out and selected some words off a list, made a pretty statement with those values and moved on with business. But this is a really pointless exercise. Let’s break down what values are not, and what they are.
Values are not …
– Your “Why”
– Your Mission
– Your Vision
– Your Give Back Outreach Program
– Your Social Impact Goals
Values are …
Values are by their very definition: “The things we personally view as the most important in life which serve a the principles or standards of our behavior.”
This is the literal definition of the word values from the dictionary. The definition has two important parts:
– The first, is that values include a set of things (these set of things are the beliefs and character traits that we view as the MOST important in our life and business)
– The second part of the definition shows action (we take these beliefs and character traits and we then use them as standards for how we act internally and publicly for our businesses.
Company values are so powerful because when we understand what the most important character traits are in our lives and businesses, we can use them as a tool to drive the right kind of actions.
How to Uncover the Right Values for Your Business:
As I mentioned, the worst way to select company values is to select them off a list. I have been prompted by several coaches in the past to use this watered down approach.
What happened? I didn’t use them in my strategies, I didn’t use them in my operations, I didn’t use them in my messaging or my sales conversations, and I ultimately forgot them.
The best way to find company values that are going to be meaningful for your brand is to include your personal journey AND your customer’s journeys in the process.
Let me explain what I mean.
Including Your Personal Journey to Select Your Values:
When we look deeper at what we have experienced in our life, we will see all the lessons learned, the aha moments, the struggles and the victories. We will uncover all of the defining moments that give us a clear picture of how we view the world, WHY we want to make a difference in it, and what led us to start our company.
This reflection exercise, which is best done through journaling, is a powerful way to uncover brand values because they will resonate with you on a deep and emotional level.
In fact, there are probably core values already inside of your business, you just are not aware of them yet.
To start uncovering your brand values, I suggest journaling about the top 5 biggest aha moments and lessons learned in your life. Write down what happened, what was so challenging for you, what new character trait you learned through the experience, and why you think it’s so important for the world. Then go back and reread what you wrote — there will be value words all over the place!
Including your Customer’s Journeys When Narrowing Down Your Values:
You should end up with only 4 or 5 values so that you can really take action with them.
So, the second strategy for selecting your values is to get to know your customers on an intimate level. By engaging in 1-on-1 conversations with your customers, you will hear them talk about the things that are most important in their lives and what they want to achieve. This will help you to blend your customer’s values with your own to make them truly concise and aligned.
I suggest doing deep customer discovery by interviewing at least 5 ideal customers in a 1-on-1 setting. Ask them if you can record the interviews, so you can listen back over the audio to pull out the values words they use.
I want to warn you that understanding your values is not a fast and easy exercise where you just answer a few personality questions and a computer-generated algorithm spits out your values, or where you just pick words off a list that sound pretty to you and then work them into your brand verbiage. it’s much deeper and more personal than that.
Fast and easy = zero worth when it comes to values, so if you have been a part of that kind of shallow exercise, not to worry, you can follow my two steps to create really meaningful, beautiful values that are going to elevate your business.
It’s going to take some reflecting and digging deep. But if you can commit to that, you will be amazed at how powerful values can be for you, your business and your social impact.