Make Your Business Core Values Sticky

Episode Overview

If you've got a culture problem in your business (or you want to avoid one), this episode is for you.

Nick shares five key checkpoints that can help you create awareness and reinforce the culture you're trying to build in your business. Learn how to embed your core values into every aspect of your organization to address business culture problems and ensure your values stick and your culture more resilient and impactful.. These are some of the strategies that Nick credits for helping his company land on multiple 'Best Places to Work' lists.  

Key Takeaways for Making Your Core Values Sticky

Embedding Core Values for Stronger Business Culture

Nick emphasizes the importance of having clear, memorable, and actionable core values. These values should guide behavior within your organization and be consistently visible. Learn how to establish and reinforce your core values to ensure they are leader-sourced and crowd-enforced.

The Leadership Message

Nick emphasizes the importance of having clear, memorable, and actionable core values. These values should guide behavior within your organization and be consistently visible. Learn how to establish and reinforce your core values to ensure they are leader-sourced and crowd-enforced.

Integrating Core Values in the Hiring Process

Nick highlights the critical role of the hiring process in embedding core values. Every interview and onboarding session should emphasize these values, ensuring new hires understand and align with your business culture. Learn how to conduct culture interviews and include core values in onboarding.

Performance Reviews and Core Values

Performance reviews should include evaluations of how well employees embody core values. Nick discusses the importance of quarterly reviews, self-ratings, peer feedback, and manager evaluations. He also introduces the concept of a quarterly core value development plan to continuously reinforce these values.

The Culture Infusion Cycle

The culture infusion cycle is a system for making core values permeate every level of your business. Nick explains how daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual activities can demonstrate, remind, and reinforce your values. Learn how to create a coherent plan that ensures continuity and engagement.

Core Values and Culture Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Quotes About Core Values and Culture from the Episode:

  • "Your culture exists whether or not you are intentional about guiding it, so if you haven't defined it, chances are it's not going the direction you would want."
  • "It's important for culture and values to be clear and to stay top of mind as often as possible with staff."
  • "Performance reviews should evaluate adherence to core values."
  • "The culture infusion cycle turns values from words on a wall into daily practices."

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The host - Nick Berry
The Production Company - FCG

Episode Transcript for Leadership Opportunities and Intentions

Nick (00:00)
So you've got a values or culture problem or you think that you may and what that may look like. It could involve a performance issue, but it might not. It could be people good at their job, their skill wise, but not good for morale. They're a bad, bad people fit. Typically you're going to be able to trace that back to either not setting expectations very well or not maintaining expectations ongoing.

So I'm going to share with you the system that we use to establish and reinforce our culture that got us recognition multiple years in a row as a best place to work for company culture at the same time as we were being recognized for growth, at the same time we were being recognized for client satisfaction. So we were able to maintain all three of those areas at one time and it wasn't an accident.

So we had to put things like this into place. So here's what we did for culture.

It's important for culture and values to be clear and to stay top of mind as often as possible with staff. That's your job as the leader.

There are five checkpoints that you can use to create awareness and reinforce the culture that you're trying to build. Core values, the leadership message, hiring process, performance reviews, and the culture infusion cycle.

So your core values, three to five is the rule of thumb, but they're the values that are gonna guide behavior in the business. They should be enough to give everybody the essentials as to how we're gonna do things here, but not so many that it's too many to remember or they're diluted. I feel like at this point, it's table stakes. You almost have to have them.

Your culture is, it exists. Whether or not you are intentional about guiding it is another thing. So if you don't have core values, if you haven't defined your culture to be, then chances are it's not going the direction that you would want. My recommendation is make sure that you've defined it. Use your core values to do that. That way you and your staff can work to be intentional about creating the culture that you want to have. And then you also need to have a consistent cadence of activities that are gonna demonstrate, they're gonna remind people, they're gonna reinforce the values in the culture, they're gonna keep it top of mind. So much of it's about top of mind.

Second thing, the leadership message. So this is your 30 ,000 foot view and it's a combination of the vision, the where we're going and the core values, how we're doing things, we do things here. So it's, this is where we're going, this is how we're gonna be along the way. As a leader, you are going to have to resurface and speak to the values regularly. That is part of the job. And you're gonna have to do more than simply read off the set of core values every time you have a meeting with your staff.

The leadership message is where you've captured from your perspective and are able to share with the other people on your team different ways to look at the core values and the vision other than just stating the core values verbatim. So, and it can look a lot of different ways. For still have this document that's called What It Means to Work Here. And it's just a few pages long and it just talks about our values and why they're important and what they look like in our organization. So it's much more in depth and paints a much clearer picture than simply a list of core values. It's closer to a story. And the message in that document was so similar to the way that I would talk about those things, about our values in day -to -day conversations, in meetings. So it captured my message to our staff about our values.

One of our values was we do what we say we're going to do. And we do that because it's a sign of integrity, because...It's a sign of reliability. And that's something that's really important to the people who came to us. And it was also who we are. That's really important to everybody, in my opinion. And so That was one of our values. And we made sure that everyone understood it from different angles, not just here's a statement on a poster in our office.

Third checkpoint, the hiring process. You want to make sure that you build core values into every interview and every onboarding session. You can even make an entire interview simply a culture interview. Make sure that you're discussing core values in the behavior form, and include the leadership message in onboarding. I send out our What It Means to Work Here document to hire before they're even made.

Fourth checkpoint is performance reviews. So I think it's a good idea if staff members are discussing values as a part of their performance reviews every quarter, getting feedback from managers, peers if that's part of the review process, and doing a self -rating. Core value failure, repeated core value failure is fireable in my opinion, just like...performance issues are. And I would also suggest that you could use a quarterly core value development plan or like a performance improvement plan. You can apply the same methodology to a values development plan.

And I would want to make sure that all managers understood they're expected to reinforce core values as a part of communication meetings, all behaviors.

And the fifth checkpoint is what I call the infusion cycle. This is your system for getting your values to permeate the business. So you have to have this consistent cadence of activities built into the routines that are gonna demonstrate, they're gonna remind, they're gonna reinforce and surface the values, the culture, the expectations. It's gonna make everyone more aware. It just keeps it top of mind. This is where you go from saying this is how we're going to be to being how you're going to be.

You're going to lay out a series of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual activities, reminders, et cetera. It can be a combination of all these. They all need to align and connect. It needs to be a coherent plan.

I'll just take you through this infusion cycle that I use.

We'll start with the daily reminders. First off, I want the core values to be visible. I want them somewhere that their eyeballs are going to be pointed at those values at some point during the day. Also, if you have regular recurring meetings, can use the start of those meetings to during introductions or highlights or headlines or whatever type of check acknowledge specific instances of maybe a staff member or someone living out one of the core values. Little things, but they roll up into bigger things.

So for the weekly activities. And I think the linchpin of this whole plan is the weekly activities. It's critical if you're gonna get this plan off the ground that the touch points need to be frequent enough, that they don't just totally vaporize dissipate from one mention to the next. If you are having regular weekly meetings with staff, if everyone on staff is at least attending a meeting, then I think there's a good opportunity right there. If you installed some type of values or cultural reinforcement into your meeting agendas, then everyone immediately starts getting hit by, some type of culture or values reminder every week. So what we would do is a core values recognition nomination. So we had a form set up. Anyone on our team could recognize anyone else for demonstrating any of our core values that could be done anonymously. It didn't have to be. And then all of the recognition was compiled and sent out, shared with our team at the end of the week along with the examples and with the comments for each person. we would also do two levels. So we would have general recognition, which is like awesome, like do a good job doing the thing, the way that we do it. And then there was MVP. This would be for something extraordinary, over the that makes our company, whatever it is that we aspire to You could also do, if you send out weekly communication with your staff, you could do a core value of the week and build some message around that.

For the monthly cycle, what we would do is we would take all of the weekly recognition, roll that a report, and then share that during our monthly meetings with our staff. We'd just create one single report and share it, and it would have everything, the MVP and the general.

And then for the quarterly, we would vote for an MVP. So we would take all of the recognition for every person, and share that with the staff for the entire quarter, share that with the staff, let everybody vote on like who did the best, who was that person this quarter. we would have a quarterly MVP, we would give gift cards, we had plaques in our office. And so, you know, it's a big deal. Everyone in the back of their mind always knows what it looks like when they see another of their coworkers, another team member living one of our core values. They know how to look for it. They know how to recognize it. And that's the culture that we want. Probably at first, I think once the program was established, and it didn't take that long, I feel like them getting recognition from their peers that they felt like was authentic became the real reward.

And then we would also just roll up the quarterly into an annual cycle, we would do our annual core values awards, which was very similar to the quarterly in that we would roll everything up into a report, let our staff vote. We'd have a first, second, third place winner for each of our core values. And then we would create a culture book. And it was like the annual finale to this whole cycle every year. would be like weekly recognition rolled up into quarterly, rolled up into annual and then we our awards that we would give and then it got put into a book. One year we did like a culture map that got put on the wall. We made sure that we included the comments from the peers. So, you know, by the end of the year, everybody on staff would have, you know, some mentions of themselves somewhere doing something that a peer had caught, or acknowledged and it was in their peers words and if they didn't have something, if they hadn't been acknowledged, that problem typically got surfaced much earlier than it would have otherwise.

It helped us see and I think it helps people become more aware and see on their own, like, I need to do more and here's what it looks like, right? Like, your peers are telling you, this is what this value looks like to us.

So that whole cycle is a really powerful tool that it takes the whole core values and the poster on the wall thing to a whole other level. It brings it to life. What you've got to watch out for is you've got to make sure that you're not just going through the motions that'll bring hollow pretty quickly.

And also it's going to get stale over time. It's okay to change it up. Put yourself in their shoes and just think about like, "okay, What's it going to take to freshen this up a little bit?" What tweak can we make without losing the validity of what we're doing here? And you can experiment. Your team will be able to help you. They'll have ideas too. know, you're going to have to iterate on it.

So get started with the ideal in mind, but roll with MVP. Just get something out there and know that you're going to have to iterate in order to get to ideal. So remember, it's important you've got to set expectations when it comes to your values and culture, and you've got to be consistent. You've got to surface, acknowledge, and if you don't, they're gonna erode and dissipate eventually.

All right, those are the five culture and values checkpoints that are going to help you create awareness and reinforce culture that you're trying to build. And if you're having a culture or a values problem, hopefully get you help you smoke that out and get it corrected ASAP. Let me know what you think.

Nick Berry Round Headshot

Nick Berry is an accomplished entrepreneur and CEO, whose track record includes founding and leading numerous companies since 2002.

He is also a mentor and coach to other entrepreneurs and business owners who are looking for a trusted (and proven) advisor.  

Among peers, colleagues, staff, and clients, Nick has been referred to as both 'The Business Guy' as well as 'The Anti-Guru', due to his pragmatic approach and principled leadership.

He shares his insights and lessons learned, along with those of his expert guests,
on his podcast, 'The Business Owner's Journey'.