Values, Inc.

What's Your Code?

Our world continues to change. Companies keep growing, and media, technology, and increasing cultural pressure to conform can be daunting. In this post, Dina Dwyer Owens encourages leaders to establish and stand firm in their company's core values amidst changing times. 

Dina was CEO of The Dwyer Group for fifteen years before becoming Co-Chairwoman. Now she spends her time promoting the The Dwyer Group’s company culture and code of values, seeking out acquisition opportunities for complimentary service brands, and speaking on local, national, and international stages on behalf of the company. She is the author of Live R.I.C.H. and Values, Inc..

Dina wants to help business leaders who don’t already have a clearly written set of values. She offers these suggestions to get started:
  • Make sure your values align with your company and leadership team identities.
  • Create systems around those values. 
  • Measure your performance.  

Dina said that your values as an organization need to truly align with who your company is. In other words, it’s not helpful to write values based on who you wish you were. As you take a look around your organization—both the daily operations and its corporate culture—what values do you see in the company and its people? What values are reflected in the conversations you have or meetings you hold? Make a list.
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Dina also said that coming up with your core values doesn’t rely solely on you as the leader. You’ll want and need your leadership team to come alongside you in establishing and rallying around your company’s values.   

Who are the primary people you need to get on board with you as you establish your company’s core values? Make a list.
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Dina talked about setting high expectations as a company. Sometimes people shy away from high expectations because they think they won’t be able to live up to them. Dina said it’s best to acknowledge that your company isn’t perfect (we’re all humans), but still set the bar high.   

Do your core values set the bar high? If so, congratulate yourself and give your team members praise for aiming for greatness! If not, take some time to brainstorm the type of company you want to be and what values you will need to uphold in order to be that kind of company.
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Dina said her organization talks about their values all the way down to employee interviews. They want to be clear early on about who they are as a company and only hire people who can align with that identity. This is just one of many things The Dwyer Group does to systematize around their values. They also repeat their values at meetings, say them out loud in corporate gatherings, and talk about them intentionally in conversations.   

Your company’s core values won’t stick overnight. You will need to "hyper communicate" them and create systems that provide structure so that employees are able to internalize your core values and make them a part of their life and work. What are some systems you can create in your company that will intentionally weave your core values into your work and culture? It might help to brainstorm creative ways to talk about them.
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Once you’ve established and communicated your core values, you’ll want to make sure they are bearing fruit. Dina said it’s important to measure your performance regularly so that you can see how effective your company is being. She suggested things like surveys and performance evaluations.   

It’s not enough to just “have” core values. What do you do to ensure your values are bearing fruit?
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What are some ways you can interact with your employees more intentionally in order to evaluate how they are living out your company’s core values?
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It’s only fair that if you are evaluating your team on how they are living out the core values, then they get to evaluate you, too. Dina emphasized the importance of not getting defensive when you receive feedback about how you are doing living out your core values. 

How do you typically respond to criticism? Do you ever get defensive? If so, why? What are some ways you can begin to self-evaluate regularly so that you are able to hold yourself more accountable to your values and be more open to criticism?
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Core values can guide your organization to an exciting new level. They can provide a sense of purpose, meaning, and direction to where you’re going, and they can also allow you to see where you’re falling short. Remember that, as the leader, establishing and committing to core values begins with you. Be clear in sharing your core values and then wise to hold yourself and others accountable in living them out.   

This post was taken from the 5-part course, Stick to the Basics. To view the entire course, click here

Content for this post and the entire Stick to the Basics course was based on Dina Dwyer Owens' book Values, Inc.: How Incorporating Values Into Business and Life Can Change the World.  Find about more about Values: Inc. or buy a copy here.