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What vision and values building really teaches you

Vision and values building
Employees of all rank should be able to put their suggestions forward

Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches the most about your destination – at least that’s how I feel having been part of a vision and values building process.

One of the benefits of joining a new business is the opportunity to help shape not only where it is going, but how it will get there. Everyone is new and enthusiastic to share their experience of previous jobs, building a culture that brings to best out of the team.

However, defining your vision and values, or whatever terminology you care to use, needn’t be something only new companies do. It’s a great opportunity to gain a better understanding of how people in the organisation tick – what drives, scares and empowers them.

All too often, and I can talk from experience, the values a company pertains to adhere to are either written by senior management or parachuted in from an external agency. With much fanfare the CEO will send them round with a message attached explaining their importance – how each member of staff should take the time to study and apply the relevant parts to their day-to-day working life.

They come across as a box-ticking exercise completed more out of obligation than genuine passion. And with that they are left to gather dust in the corner – not lingering long in the mind of employees because they weren’t part of the journey that led to the destination.

Make it collaborative

As I’ve recently discovered, making every member of the business part of the vision and values building journey not only means there is buy-in when the final set are decided on, but you emerge from the tunnel knowing so much more about the people you spend most of the working week with.

You learn that while some are empowered by a culture that encourages taking risk and experimenting, others prefer structure and accountability. You find out the jargon and buzzwords that wind people up and the language that just flat out scares them. And, perhaps most interestingly, you discover which member of the team prefers to soak up what everyone says and then deliver the most profound insight of the session right at the end.

In our vision and values building process at Be the Business, company-wide sessions were followed up by a working group get togethers – where the myriad of thoughts and opinions were broken down and mapped out. It has been fascinating to see the different interpretations many people have had to a seemingly innocuous statement or behaviour. But it’s only when you give people the chance to share their voice that a company can land on a succinct narrative that everyone is prepared to get behind and actively share with the wider community they engage with.

The rich dialogue that has populated our company-wide and working group sessions is beginning to permeate daily conversation. Before the vision, values and behaviours that will shape the way our business operates are even nailed to the proverbial flagpole we are living and breathing them.

Make them actionable

What, you may ask, are the Be the Business values? Ours are shaped by a desire to be the catalyst for real change – change that can only happen when it’s led by the very people it’s seeking to help and achieved by realising the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

  • We make things happen – we take action to change things, working with our network and partners
  • We learn when we do – we experiment and find out what works, adapting based on what is learnt
  • We understand because we listen – we engage with those we are here to support, taking on board their perspective
  • We have big aims, we celebrate small wins – small actions add up to big change– we build optimism and momentum
  • We are ambitious and driven – we set a high bar for ourselves and others – supporting and challenging each other to achieve more

Aligning on a set of values is one thing, making them stick is quite another. Whether you paint them on the wall or assign a chief values officer, it’s important to consider how they come to life within an organisation. This is a challenge we as a business now face, but one we’ll approach with vigour having been part of the process that propagated them.

By Hunter Ruthven, web editor at Be the Business.

Discover the different approaches taken to communicating vision and values by British SMEs.

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