A few founder friends have asked me how we set up our company values at Candor. Company values are so important to get right—you want them to reflect the real culture of your company and be something the whole team is bought into. If you're more into audio, we did a podcast about this topic here.

Where companies do values wrong

But first, what are company values? This Hubspot article describes them as "fundamental beliefs and principles that guide your organization". Pretty good, but thinking of your values as just "principles" can fall a bit short. Great company values should point to specific behavior that's celebrated and rewarded in your organization. Without pointing to behavior, values can feel a bit distant and aspirational.

The other thing that some orgs get wrong -- only involving leadership in setting your company values. I see so many companies put their leadership team in a room to set the company's values together. The problem with this is that you aren't getting the entire team involved. How are employees supposed to feel tied to the mission and values of a company if they personally aren't involved in setting them up? What if by not involving the whole team, you get the values wrong? What leadership values isn't what all employees value. Your company values might not be taken seriously and might be seen as out of touch.

How to run an inclusive values exercise

Ok so you're ready to tie values to behaviors and get the whole team involved. Here's where to start.

I'd recommend making an anonymous Typeform or Google Form with the following questions:

  1. Think of someone on the team who crushed it in the last few months? What made you think of them? What words would you use to describe how they work?
  2. What behaviours do you see day-to-day on the team that inspire you?
  3. What behaviours don't gel with the team?
  4. What differentiates our team from other teams you know of / have worked on?
  5. When don't we do our best work together? What happened? Why did things feel different?
  6. When have we done our best work together? Why was that - what conditions made it so?

At this point you have a few options:

  • Review with a small committee on the team who has expressed interest in setting up core values. Run a workshop where you read through responses from the Typeform or Google Form together.
  • Review team-wide with founder, CPO, or other culture champion moderating the conversation.

Whichever option you choose, make sure you share with the team who will see their responses from the form before they write them.

During the workshop, focus your time on highlighting trends among responses. What are the common themes that come up in the behavior we've outlined here?

We did this workshop using a Miro board where everyone jumped in and grouped similar content next to each other. Once we had clusters of content outlined, it was easier to come up with what the themes were.

Your themes will be your values. You can get creative with wording of your values, but I recommend keeping them straightforward and accessible so people actually know what they mean.

How to integrate your new values into your team's culture

Congrats! You've set up authentic, transparent team values in a way that involved the team and feels true to who you are as a group.

The fun doesn't stop here. One of the most important parts of having team values is integrating them into the day-to-day culture of the company.

We can help you do that at Candor with our Shoutouts feature. Shoutouts pings every teammate once per week to share a shoutout for a teammate based on one of the team's values. It's an easy way to put your team culture, values, and celebrating each other on autopilot.

If you have questions about team values or about how Candor can help your team's culture, please reach out at kelsey@joincandor.com.

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