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Three Steps To Discover Your Company Values


by Debra Corey, author of “Bringing Your Values Out To Play

As a startup you need each and every one of your employees working and moving in the same direction, working together to strengthen and grow your business. But if your employees don’t have a map, something to guide them in their actions and behaviors, how will they (and your business) get there?

Enter company values, something that organizations of all sizes and industries have put in place to act as this map, guiding their people in good times and in bad, helping them all get to that final destination. Or as Ken Blanchard and Garry Ridge say in their book “Helping People Win at Work“, “Values are needed as principles that guide our behavior while we’re scaling the mountain we set to climb.”

But like anything, there are good company values and bad ones. Ones that clearly and effectively guide their people, and ones that are so vague, bland or confusing that they sit on the shelf and do little to create the focus and alignment that your business requires. Here are three things that good values do:

  1. They are servants to your mission and purpose – they support, align and drive your company’s mission and purpose forward, keeping you focused on what your business is trying to achieve.
  2. They are specific to your company – they specifically relate to and are meaningful to your culture and to your way of working, helping you say and do things in your own way.
  3. They can and will take you to a new planet – they not only help you in the short-term, but have an eye and focus on the future to help you achieve your more long-term goals and objectives.

To help you discover the ‘right’ values for your business, let me share with you a three-step process I developed and map out in detail in my DIY Values Toolkit. The process is called the “WTH Approach,” and is something I encourage you to do with your people, working together to make sure you get it right.

The journey to discover your true company values involves looking at what you already say, what you already do, what you already believe, and what you want and need to protect.

Step 1 – W: Put your values on the wall

This step is where you will begin your values discovery process, with the objective being to discover values that should be put up on the wall, meaning they are the ones that at first glance will help you deliver on your business and people objectives.

Don’t worry if you have a lot of potential values at the end of this step — it’s normal and will be helpful as you move onto the next step. Also, don’t  get hung up on the specifics of the words right now, as later on in the process the values will be turned into suitable words that are right for your company and your culture.

Please note that in my toolkit I include values cards having sample values to help throughout the discovery exercise. If you don’t have the toolkit, you can use post its or something similar to capture your ideas.

Step 2 – T: Invite your values to the table

This step is where you will refine and prioritize the values into only those that deserve a seat at the table. These are ones that you just can’t walk away from as they are so critical to the life, health, and success of your company, and fully align with your objectives.

Here are a few things to keep in mind during this step:

  • “Permission to play” values – Some of the values you have come up with during step 1 may be considered what are called “permission to play” values, which means they are fundamental and essential, minimum standards of behavior, but don’t necessarily help differentiate you or help you achieve your objectives. Think of them like the air that you breathe, they’re important but they’re a given in how you live.
  • Be selective – Be selective here, keeping in mind that there are only so many seats at the table, make the ones that you select count.

Step 3 – H: Bring your values home

This final step is where you will bring home the values that have been discovered up to this point, selecting your winning values and then putting these into your own words, infusing your own culture, personality, and tone of voice.

There are two parts to this step: 1. Selecting your winners, those that you decide should be your final values and 2. Making them your own, which is making them unique, relevant and meaningful to your business and your people.

I hope you’ve found this helpful, and I encourage you to take the time to discover your values, creating that map to guide your people and your business. Should you want more information on my DIY Values Toolkit, you can click here.


Debra Corey is a highly experienced and award-winning HR leader, consultant, world-class speaker, and three-time best-selling author who has been named two years in a row as one of the top 101 global employee engagement influencers. Her books include “Bringing Your Values Out To Play“, “Build It: The Rebel Playbook for World-Class Employee Engagement“, and “Build It: The Rebel Playbook for World-Class Employee Engagement“.


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