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Defining Your Organizational Values-A Step towards Intentional Workplace Culture

We recently received this question from a reader:

“I have a quick question….  I am working with a client to define “values.”  Bought your book and discovered that the Values Team is doing much of what you suggest, which is nice to learn! However, we are getting very hung up on what is a value, vs. a strategy.  I don’t find any distinguishing definitions in the book.  Any help?”

What are Organizational Values?

This is a great question and one we get asked frequently when we are facilitating Values Blueprint® Workshops. Organizational Values are those beliefs held so strongly that they drive people’s behavior and dictate how people interact with and treat each other. Values are part of an intentional workplace culture. Values, together with their defined Behaviors, set the minimum expectation of behavior for everyone in your organization, and help to lay the ground work for your company’s culture. We call this set of Values and Behaviors a Values Blueprint®. If your organization has been working on its culture for some time, then all employees should be able to state your organization’s Values and describe the Behavior that is expected of them.

As an example: One of JetBlue Airways’ Values is Fun. The Behaviors they have defined for Fun include:

  • Exhibits a sense of humor and ability to laugh at self.
  • Adds personality to the customer experience.
  • Demonstrates and creates enthusiasm for the job.
  • Seeks to convert a negative situation into a positive customer experience.
  • Creates a friendly environment where taking risks is okay.

 If you do a good job of defining your Core Values with Behaviors, you can hire to it, promote to it, evaluate to it, reward to it, and fire to it.


Don’t Confuse Values with Results

Strategic Goals specify WHAT your organization will accomplish. Values specify HOW you will accomplish your goals. When identifying the corporate Values, you want to make sure the words you choose actually are Values. When your team suggests a word as a Value, make sure the word is something you can create behaviors around, after all… Values without Behaviors are not actionable. You also want to make sure proposed Values do not represent expected results. For instance, Financial Success might not be a Value. Financial success is a result rather than a Value. Financial success is the result of possibly several values, such as good customer service, fiscal responsibility, and sustained growth.

Organizations that do a good job of defining their Values with Behaviors will eventually create a culture that supports high performance. The Juniper Networks Values Blueprint®, known as “The Juniper Way,” sets the expectation that every employee living the five Values is fundamental to their success in the next decade: Authentic, Trust, Excellence, Bold Aspirations, and Meaningful Difference.

  • Comment (4)
  • Greetings …….. I hope to communicate and benefit through communication and participation with you

  • Hey – First time I have seen values and behaviour listed together to define how we do things. I have seen organisations talk about values defining how we do things and I have seen people talk about behaviours defining how we do things but now that I have read your page it makes complete sence to combine the two. Great work!

  • Peopleink, I think your on to something here. Companies I’ve worked for apparently have never heard this before because their ra ra mission statements are meaningless. They think all they have to do is tell people this is what the company is about, and sort of imply this is how we want you to act but they never go much further. Most workers want to do a good job but they just need to be clear about what’s acceptable (or valued) and what’s not and there’s no better way than to spell it out. Plus, I suppose when everyone is on the same page you won’t hear so much griping. sorry for ranting, but you know, some companies just don’t get it. They could be doing so much more in uniting their people.

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