Have you taken any time to write out your company's (or team's) values? If you haven't, you probably know that you should. Stating your values, like creating a mission statement, helps focus your team. It allows you and them to keep what's important front and center in a world where distractions are constantly flying at you and them from all directions. Stating and being able to point to your values can help you make the toughest calls. It can also keep you and your team inspired in the toughest times.
But it's not just important to have values, it's important to have the right values. And perhaps even more important to have values that work--that everyone remembers and can apply to the multitude of decisions they make every day.
So I was quite intrigued when Stephanie Newby, founder of Golden Seeds, an early stage VC firm for women entrepreneurs and now CEO of the social data analytics company Crimson Hexagon told me that she and her executive team had taken their company's relatively new value statement, which they had all worked hard on with the company, thrown it in the trash, and started over.
Newby, who believes deeply in the importance of vision as part of running a business, was generous enough to share the old values, her reasons for starting over, and the new values that resulted from this process. Take a look, and ask yourself if it isn't time to rip up your own value statement and start again.
Crimson Hexagon's first set of values
Crimson Hexagon helps brands gain insight from social data. Newby had joined the company as interim CEO after Golden Seeds invested in it, but found she was having so much fun at the job that she chose to stay on. One of her most important projects was to create a value statement for the company, a project she started with her executive team in early 2015 and shared with the whole company that summer. Here are the values they established then:
1. Problem Solving
This is how Crimson Hexagon helps its customers.
This reflects the importance of the technology that drives the company.
This is how the company makes decisions.
4. Data Driven
This is how the company ensures it is meeting its customers' goals, and its own.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with these values--they accurately reflected what Crimson Hexagon and its leadership believe its important, how it should operate, and what creates its success. But as summer turned to fall, Newby was increasingly disturbed by what she came to see as some fatal weaknesses in this value statement. Ask yourself if any of the following apply to your own value statement as well:
1. There are too many.
"When you have more than three values, people start having trouble remembering them," Newby says.
2. They're too vague.
"I thought they were OK, but I didn't want them to be platitudes," Newby says.
3. They don't start conversations.
Your values should be something that the team can discuss, that comes up in conversations, or forms the basis of informal discussions and Q&As, Newby says. She could see that this would not happen with Crimson Hexagon's original value statement.
4. They don't help you with hiring decisions.
This is an extremely bad flaw in a company that is expanding rapidly, and in an industry where finding talent is increasingly challenging.
5. They don't tell you what to do--and what not to.
One big purpose of a value statement is to encourage some behaviors throughout the company and discourage others. This value statement was not accomplishing that goal.
Time for a do-over.
By October, Newby was becoming convinced that the company's value statement needed already needed an overhaul. Over the holidays, she began writing down the behaviors she wanted to encourage at Crimson Hexagon, the kind that would make the company strong for the long term. Then came the hard part: She had to break it to her team.
"They were pissed off at me," she says frankly. "But I talked one-on-one with a lot of people. We had done all this work as a company mapping out our four pillars that it was worth unraveling them a little big and going deeper."
Working with her executive team, she established a second set of values that she believes will serve the company much better:
1. Be professional.
This reflects how the company should interact with its customers and the rest of the world, and how the people who work there should behave for the company's continued success. "People know when they are being professional and when they are not, but sometimes they need to have a reminder to fall back on when reflecting on something that went wrong," Newby explains.
2. Be humble.
"To me, this is all about learning," Newby says. "Never let your ego get in the way of your ability to learn. Don't be afraid to say you don't understand." The moment you think you know everything you need to, you're in trouble.
3. Be human.
This is how employees should behave when they're at work, how they treat each other and customers and it's fundamentally important, Newby says. "I started thinking about what makes people happy at work, and I think it's having really good relationships. When you screw something up, often it's over a relationship at work." Being human also means having a life and relationships outside of work, she adds. "We need to acknowledge the full lives our people are living."
These values inform Crimson Hexagon's hiring. "In the end, it's not that difficult--we are simply looking for two things: happy people and learning people. Our values can remind us what we are looking for," Newby explains. "I want to be a company where people don't have to come in perfect, but they're humble and willing to learn more," she adds. This also means that, when you have people whose behavior doesn't align with the company's values, even if they are high performers at their jobs, they must either change their ways or leave.
Newby and the executive team have only recently rolled out the new values to the company. "Now I want to have lunches where we talk about the dos and don'ts," she says. The next step will be a recognition program to reward employees who exemplify these values.
It's too early yet to know what the results of the new values will be. In the meantime, what do you think? Will the new values be more effective than the old ones?