We all have different values that influence our actions, our attitudes and the choices we make. Use this exercise to prioritize your values so you understand what’s most important to you.
What You’ll Need to Complete this Exercise
- A notebook, journal or several sheets of paper
- A pen or pencil
- A highlighter
You’ll also need some time. This process can take up an entire two-day retreat, or be spread out in 30- to 60-minute sprints over a couple of weeks. Just be sure that whatever time you set aside to work on this exercise, is uninterrupted time. Interruptions will derail your train of thought and make this process take longer.
For ease in writing this, I will assume you have chosen a journal. If you haven’t, just substitute “journal” for whatever you chose.
Part One: Identify Your Personal Core Values
Your business core values will spring from your personal core values, so it is best to identify those first.
Step One: What makes you tick?
In your journal, think about these questions and write down your answers. It is OK to take a few days to do this. These questions are meant to prompt you to think deeply about what your beliefs, values, and drives are — in other words, what makes you tick. There are no right or wrong answers.
- Who inspires you? What is it about them you find inspiring?
- Remember a time when you were at your best. What about that moment made it your best?
- Think of the people you look up too. What about them do you aspire to develop in yourself?
- Think about things that annoy you. What qualities in others really tick you off?
- Describe yourself in 20 words or less.
- Do you have rules you follow to the letter? Write them down.
- Do you have rules you’ve set for yourself, but find yourself breaking them? Write those down.
- Take 5-10 minutes to write down all the things that make you smile, laugh or feel good.
Now go over your answers and look for trends. Write those down on a separate page of your journal.
Step Two: What values resonate with you?
Here is a list of potential core values. Go through the list and write down on a page of your journal all the words that resonate with you. These are the values and beliefs that you are drawn to.
Do this quickly. Don’t put too much thought into it. Look at the word. If it attracts you, write it down, then move on to the next.
Making A Difference
Step Three: Identify Your Top 10 Values
Take your highlighter and highlight the 10 words from the list you just created that you find the most compelling. Then write them down on another page in your journal.
Step Four: Hone in on Your Top Three to Five Values
Go back to the results of Step One. Where do the trends you identified overlap with the 10 words you wrote down in Step Three? Compare and contrast and then select 3-5 of those 10 words that you find the most compelling. These are your personal core values.
Part Two: Identify Your Business Core Values
Business core values are a little different than personal core values because they involve not only yourself but also your customers, clients, prospects, staff, and vendors. However, they often overlap and are more outwardly defined.
Step One: Flesh Out Your Personal Core Values
In your journal, think about these questions and write down your answers. It is OK to take a few days to do this. These questions are meant to prompt you to think more deeply about how you define those top three to five values. There are no right or wrong answers.
- For each of your identified values, write down your definition of that word.
- What does it mean to you to have that as a core value?
- What does it mean to you to live that value?
- What behaviors embody that value to you?
Step Two: What Values Do You Want for Your Business?
Below is a list of core values from real companies. Do any of them resonate with you? Do any of them overlap with your top 3 to 10 personal core values? Write those down on a page of your journal.
Do this quickly. Don’t put too much thought into it. Look at the word or phrase. If it attracts you, write it down, then move on to the next.
Be a host
Champion the mission (by living the mission)
Cherish Our Resources
Collaborate to succeed
Communication IS Leadership
Deliver value and excellence
Embrace the adventure
Engage in teamwork
Every frame matters
Explore, experiment and share
Growth with integrity
Have a creative and open mind
Honorable and Respectful
Learning and growing
Not Taking Ourselves Too Seriously
Will to win
Step Three: Identify Your Top Five Business Core Values
Given all that you’ve learned about yourself and your business in the previous steps of this exercise, select the top five values that your business will guide your business. To help you, keep in mind these questions:
- What are your business’ strengths? Why are they strengths?
- What are your business’ weaknesses? Why are they weaknesses?
- What do you want your business to be remembered for?
- Has this value already shown up in your business before? Did you like ther results?
Step Four: Define How Your Business Values Will Show Up
This last step may take a few iterations before you are completely happy with them. If you have a team, be sure to run these by them for their feedback, as well.
Take the five values you identified in Step Three and flesh them out. For example, if you chose “People first” as one of your values, what does that mean?
Recruiting Social, a recruiting services company with offices in Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Toronto, defined “People first” this way: “Not talent, personnel, human resources, human capital, applicants, resumes, candidates, sends, placements, hires, managers, clients, or customers. We work with people. We recruit people.”
Coca-Cola defined “Passion” as “Committed in heart and mind.”
For each value word or phrase, ask yourself:
- What does that word or phrase mean to me and my business?
- How will I know that my business has successfully followed or adhered to that value?
- How does that value affect my clients, customers, employees, contractors, and joint venture partners?
The best way to live your core values in your life and in your business is to regularly review them and evaluate how you are doing with being in alignment with them. Here are some ways can keep your values in front of your (and your employees) mind:
- Frame them and hang them on your wall where you can see them.
- Print them on business or post cards and distribute to your staff.
- Have them laminated and keep them handy.
- Set reminders in your calendar to review them weekly, monthly, or quarterly.
- Have them printed on an oversized mug and use that mug to hold your pens or drink your daily tea or coffee.
Be creative. Have fun! Your values are beliefs that guide your business’ actions, unite your staff and define your brand. They should make you happy, inspire you to grow and make you feel proud.