Values are Worthless Without These Four Things

Guest post
from Beth Miller:

Values are more
than a list of words on your website or a poster in your office. For values to benefit an organization they need to be lived by everyone and fully integrated
into a company’s processes and decisions.
Without a focus in your values, a clear definition of each value, and
integrating your values into your hiring and performance management system, your
values will remain hollow words.


I remember many
years ago going to visit a new client. Upon entering the lobby, I couldn’t help
but notice the very large poster with a listing of company values, in fact
there were 18 of them! When we got back to his office, I asked him with
curiosity “I noticed your list of values out in the lobby. I’m curious can you
name all of your values?” The fact is that he couldn’t, and neither could his

So, if you have
more than 7 values, it’s time to bring your team together and narrow your
values down to the top 7 or less of your most important values. One technique I
recommend is from the book
Traction, by Gino Wickman. Identify the 3
people in your organization you would want to clone and then start describing
the characteristics and behaviors which make them special. This will provide
you with an initial list you can narrow down.


In recent years
companies have realized they should focus on the important values which make
their company standout from the crowd of their competitors. Company values are
your company’s DNA. They are the beliefs and principles which drive your
decision making and actions for your business, and your values impact the
experience your employees, customers, and partners will have with your company.

But what do
your values mean? Values are abstract while behaviors can be observed and explained
with more clarity. The specific actions and behaviors that demonstrate your
company values need to be defined. The best way to define your values is to
revisit those 3 people you want to clone. Identify 3-5 behaviors for each of
your values you observe with these 3 employees.

Here’s an
example of the value “Working Together”. The behaviors which you observe with
your 3 employees on a consistent basis are:

1. Works
with and supports other team members to drive results

2. Builds
two-way relationships with employees and customers

3. Understands
and respects other people’s priorities

You now have
behaviors that you can use in your hiring and performance management.


Since you now
have a definition of each value and the specific behaviors and actions an
employee should be demonstrating for a value, you need to integrate this
information into your hiring process.

Start by
creating behavioral interview questions to uncover a candidate’s values. Do
they align with your values? You don’t want someone joining your team who won’t
live your values. Values misalignment is a deal breaker when it comes to

questions are designed to uncover past actions and behavior and determine both
culture and values fit. Here are tips to design behavioral interview questions:

1. A
good behavioral interview question should first be open ended starting with
“What” or “How”.
  Open ended questions
encourage discussion and require people to think and reflect, they aren’t
recall questions. And the very best questions are really a request, “Tell me
about a time…” “Share an example of…”

2. The
question/request should be designed to not “lead the witness”

3. Understand
what a good answer sounds like. Listen for the pronoun “I”. If you hear “we”
being used, you will need to clarify what exactly the job candidate’s role

For example, let’s
use the behavior “Works with and supports other team members to drive
  A good behavioral interview
question would be:

“Tell me about
a time that you had to deal with a difficult team member on a project.”

If I had
adjusted the question “Tell me about a time that you had to deal with a
difficult team member to
successfully complete a project”, I would have
been leading the witness and assuming that the project was completed
successfully. Instead, give the candidate the opportunity to share how the
project turned out.


The behaviors
and actions of your employees should be part of the performance conversation. Too
often I see managers focused on goals and results i.e.
what needs to get
done. When you include
how a result was accomplished you are measuring
against your company values.

The first step
to take is to make sure the behaviors which support your values are part of all
job descriptions. These behaviors can be measured as part of your performance
conversations and can serve as the foundation for your ongoing 1-1
conversations with your employees. The more you relate an employee’s behaviors
to their results, the more you will reinforce to the employee what you value.

You can also
use a 360 assessment to measure performance. The 360° assessment uses collected
anonymous feedback from direct reports, managers, peers, and sometimes business
partners, as well as a self-assessment, to identify areas where employees can
strengthen their skills in order to progress effectively. It is designed to
measure the core competencies (behaviors and skills) associated with a person’s

Make sure that
your company is living your values by understanding the behaviors behind your
values, hiring the right people, and measuring their performance through both
their behaviors and results.

Beth Miller is an accomplished author, speaker,
and solution provider; her insight and expertise make her a sought-after
leadership influencer. A serial entrepreneur and executive coach as well as a
former Vistage Chair of 13 years, Beth is featured in numerous industry blogs
and publications including Entrepreneur, Leadercast, and Her
book, “Are
You Talent Obsessed?
,” compiles her best practices for business leaders.