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How to better live your values: resource

21 April, 2021
How to better live your values resource understanding the big picture illustration with shared values listed

Your organisational values should be at the core of everything that is done within the company. Every behaviour by every person – from bottom to top – should in some way reflect one or more of your values. They are so much more than just a list of warm and fuzzy phrases tucked somewhere within an induction programme or pinned up on a wall. Or they should be. So often, unfortunately, they are not. So, how to better live your values is the focus of this free, downloadable resource. It is part of our series of resources aimed at addressing particular issues in the world of internal comms. This exercise builds on earlier resources looking at organisational values.

Building up your values toolkit

If you have been working through our resources toolkit, you may already have spent time with your teams to determine and assess your organisational values. You may also have undertaken a storytelling exercise to illustrate your values in action. We would strongly recommend that you take a look at those exercises before you attempt this one. You can then be sure that your values are fit for purpose and understood by all members of staff.

How to better live your values is a team reflection exercise, designed to explore how well the people within your organisation live your published values.  Are your organisational values living and breathing in the hearts, minds and behaviours of everyone within the business? Or do they need a bit of a nudge? It will help you identify those values where behaviours go above and beyond – and prompt you to use those strengths elsewhere. It will also encourage your teams to identify any areas where your values are not being lived to their fullest.

Exploring how your values are lived

If you are doing this in a live, face-to-face team meeting, try to print out the resource as large as you are able. The bigger the better as it works really well with Post-It notes. If the meeting is online, the team will need the ability to add virtual sticky notes or messages. Before you start, decide whether you intend to explore each value separately or look at the whole landscape in one go.

The object is simple – to identify what people do well and where you need to improve. This can, however, take quite a bit of thought. This is why we have given it a difficulty rating of 8 but don’t let that put you off. All it needs is a couple of good examples to get people thinking, so be prepared with one or two of your own to get the ball rolling if necessary. The exercise is in two phases and it really doesn’t matter which way round you do them.

Room for improvement

We chose to start by asking each team member where they see the greatest opportunity for improvement. Is one of your values under-represented in terms of staff behaviours? Or are there teams or departments that do better than others? Ask for specific examples with a focus on the behaviours that best illustrate how a value is not being upheld (or is possibly misunderstood). Remember, this is a gathering of information and ideas from a positive perspective. It should be made clear that comments must be constructive. Give everyone a chance to reflect individually, then share and discuss their sticky notes with the rest of the team. Are there recurring themes? Is there one issue that really stands out? Or is there a lot of work still to be done? Ask everyone for their ideas on how to improve behaviours; things you could stop doing, start doing or do more of that would make a difference.

Where do you excel?

As we’ve said, this is a positive, constructive exercise and you may choose to start with what we’ve called Step 2. This is where individuals give an example of where your organisation really excels at living its values. Again, ask for specific examples of the value and the positive behaviours demonstrated by individuals, teams or departments. This is, in fact, a very quick way of using storytelling to illustrate how your values are being lived within the organisation. Get everyone to put up their sticky notes and take a moment to discuss them with the rest of the team. Then, on their last sticky note, ask for ideas or examples of how these positive behaviours could be used to strengthen your values still further. Ask them to also explore how they might be able to demonstrate and support these positive actions personally.

Align your team and live your values

From the four quadrants of your poster or sheet, you should now be able to clearly see where you excel, where there is room for improvement, plus your team’s feedback and ideas of how to better live your values within the organisation. When you see where and what your strengths are, could they be brought into play to plug any of the gaps identified in Step 1? This is your starting point for an action plan. Use all the feedback to set your priorities, harness your strengths and overcome any weaknesses. In doing so, you will align your team so that your values can be more consistently delivered across the organisation.

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