Most companies generate a mission statement and/or a list of values that they gleefully place on their website.  Equally true, these elements are frequently created by upper level staff and/or a marketing team to ensure an air of formality. The end result is that these values are periodically trotted out to staff – blatantly telling them what their values should be. Because RTP is shifting to a more ‘personable yet professional’ outlook, we devised a way to ensure that our stated values reflect the genuine values of our staff members, individually and collectively.

So how did we go about doing that? Kat suggested an artistic/creative exercise that she’d done with another team, in which they created a vision board of who the team believes they are, and where they’d like to go. Great! I’d been trained in Expressive Art Therapy facilitation and possessed a wealth of art supplies; so I volunteered my resources to pull this off.

We set aside a day of teamwork focus (thank you Jeanne!) to be preceded by homework. Each team member was given a series of exercises in which they would generate their own values (both personally and professionally). They were to bring their results into the office on teamwork day with a goal of having their values reflected in the company values. So often, team members can feel more like ‘just’ employees rather than genuine contributors. The point of this project was to steer clear of that kind of thinking, enabling our team to feel valued and accountable for the final outcome. And we were all in…Karin made the trek from Portland to participate live, and in person.

I think it was more work than my team mates anticipated. First we shared with our personal values with the group. We explained how we generated them, and why they were important. Next, we moved on to the company values.

I asked each of my team members for a value suggestion; followed by the requirement that they validate their choice with examples from our work. You see, it’s not enough to just come up with a list of nice words, they have to MEAN something. In performing this project, we came to appreciate the similarities in our personal values, to understand our work mates, and land on a list of values that genuinely reflects who we are as a team: Creativity. Collaboration. Integrity. Perseverance.

Next, came the fun part. Ok, it was a bit of a struggle for some at first; but eventually, we created a decorative canvas, which now hangs in our office. This piece is more than just a list of values; it’s our compass, our map of who we are now and where our team is headed. As we glance over at it, we are reminded of the work it took to create, the cohesiveness of our crew, and our collective values.

Have you engaged with your team about your company values and how they define you as a team and in the work you do? We’d love to hear about it.