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Feb 21, 2014
This article is part of a series called Classic TLNT.

Editor’s Note: Sometimes readers ask about past TLNT articles. That’s why we republish a Classic TLNT post every Friday. 

Following on my recent post about why company culture is important (from the viewpoint of two experts), today I’m sharing why company values are important, from the viewpoint of two CEOs.

Lesson 1: Developing Values is a shared exercise

From Ken Rees, president and chief executive of  Think Finance (in the New York Times Corner Office column):

The first [company values] I developed myself. But four months later, I said: ‘That really isn’t the way you create cultural values. Let’s do this in a more broad-based fashion.’ So we opened it up, and we had the whole company talking about this, with a lot of very detailed discussions about every word. …

I think a good CEO. should have a certain level of insecurity about whether they really get it. Nobody wants to be the pointy-haired boss from ‘Dilbert.’ And it just came to me: ‘My gosh, I came up with these cultural values. Does everyone agree with them? They tell me they do. But I don’t know if it’s really representative. So let me push this out, and make sure that we get those ideas straight from the horse’s mouth.’”

Lesson 2: Values should be universal for all employees

From Christopher J. Nassetta, president and chief executive of Hilton Worldwide (also in the New York Times Corner Office column):

We always had good values, but I just don’t think people understood what they really were. In those first months when I traveled around the world, I stopped counting when I got to 30 different value statements at our offices. So we tried to simplify everything. …

We did a lot of work with teams around the world, and asked people to look at all their values statements and boil them down. Then we took all those ideas with us on a two-day offsite with about 12 of us. There was a lot of overlap, and we tried to consolidate it… I started looking around the room and at the letters and they came together as HILTON — H for hospitality, I for integrity, L for leadership, T for teamwork, O for ownership and N for now. To reinforce them, we are constantly referring to the letters — in newsletters, in town halls — almost to the point where we are driving people crazy. But it works.”

If you’re still unconvinced (or need to convince others) about the importance of clear, universally understood core values for your company, check out Matt Monge’s Workplace Mojo post for six reasons on why core values matter.

How did your company develop its core values? Do you know what they are? More importantly, do you know what those values look like in what you and your colleagues do every day?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

This article is part of a series called Classic TLNT.