In this video, Jim Sever, fifth generation business owner, shares how connecting the company’s core values to every day decision-making improved the bottom line for his $30M machinery moving, rigging, and crane rental company.

We sat down with Jay Meyer, President of JMeyer Strategies, to continue exploring the topic of core values. As a former business owner, Jay now helps other small business owners find greater direction, purpose and contentment in their personal and professional lives.

1. Use questions to uncover your values

One way to help define your mission, vision and values: visualize where you want to end up as a company.  

Over a period of about 4 to 6 weeks, Jay went through this process with his team. They explored questions that included:

  • What do we want our customers’ experience to be like?
  • What do we want our employees’ experience to be like?
  • What do we want our communities’ experience to be like?

From there, they were able to map out an entire customer experience, one that could reflect all the different stakeholders that they would interact with as an organization.

They then asked why the values mattered to them as individuals and as a team. The team was able to distill one foundational core value, and that was their capacity to care. “We cared about the people we served. It was just embedded in us. It was the type of people we were.”

Because the idea of caring was conceptual in nature, they continued by asking a series of other questions. One key question they explored personally and as a group was, “How will we need to behave in performing our work to make all of this happen?’” They concentrated on behaviors that supported that end experience they wanted to create. “We knew we were caring. So we asked: What kind of behavior represents an entity that truly cares?”

2. Don’t delay the process

Even if the initial process takes you time, the process itself is what can bring clarity to your company. “There’s a certain amount of clarity and focus that’s generated when the company finally says, ‘This is where we’re headed. This is our vision. This is what we need to do every day to get there. That’s our mission, and this is how we’re going to behave.,'” says Jay.

When they are involved in the process, employees are able to see where the company is headed and what that means for them on a day-to-day basis. “All of a sudden, the fog gets lifted for the employees,” says Jay.

Don’t wait for the “perfect time” to start to define or to evolve your values.  “Even if it is just a business owner going home, sitting down, finding a quiet place, and writing down 4 or 5 guiding principles that he or she is going to live by when running the business. That is where the process can start, and the rest can come later,” explains Jay.

Often times when leadership changes, it’s another opportunity to reexamine values. A bit of discovery can make sure that the values are still distinct, meaningful, authentic, not merely aspirational, and that they are being lived out and embraced by employees.

At Jay’s former company, the values would be looked at every year during a strategic planning session. “We would go through our vision, mission, and values and question whether or not any of them needed to change or be adjusted.” Many times they won’t change, but it can be a good practice to make sure nothing is missing. “If anything, through that process, we probably became more and more defined around what those values meant.”

3. Become the ‘Chief Storyteller’

If you aren’t living the values as a leader, it’s not going to happen across your company, either. “One of the biggest mistakes is to publish values and leadership not live it themselves—or have it not represent them.” Jay says if that’s happening, someone has to have the strength to speak up, and recognize that the values are at risk of no longer being authentic. “If the personality has changed or the character of the organization has changed, [a leader then] needs to step back and take a look at what values need to change.”

If you aren’t modeling the core values, it will take away from your credibility. It can also send mixed signals about your expectations. Employees can feel like they are in a bi-polar, contradictory kind of environment, explains Jay.

Leaders can also recognize employees who adopt the company values. His former company had what they called SOAR moments, or Someone’s Outstanding Action Recognized, where the team would come together and briefly celebrate how a colleague had lived out a core value.

“We would make an announcement that we were going to have a SOAR moment, and then everyone would come together. We would share the customer experience, what they said, and then other people—not those getting recognized—would, at random, receive a prize. Five people would walk away with a prize because somebody in the organization went above and beyond and really exemplified one of our values,” explains Jay. Creative and unexpected ways of celebrating these behaviors helps embed them as part of the organization’s DNA.

“The leader needs to live out the values, celebrate behaviors that exemplify the values, and he or she needs to be the chief storyteller,” adds Jay. For Jay, that meant carrying around a journal where he could take quick notes if he observed someone exemplifying the company values. Then, at a monthly meeting with his employees, he would go through and share some of the stories. Some would be from a month prior, and others would be from 3 or 4 years prior.

“Sharing stories can be a powerful tool. Storytelling with your team is really, really valuable when it comes to capturing and sharing a type of behavior you’re trying to develop and encourage.”

Identify Your Values, Where They Come From—And Why They Are Important to You

Values are the lens through which you see the world. By attending the Leading with Your Best Self workshop, you can lead more effectively across all areas of your life by showing up better equipped for each unique situation. Come away from the workshop with a process that will help you be a more conscious, authentic, and consistent leader. Ensure you’re on the path to productivity, fulfillment, and resilience: reserve your spot today!