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Core Values and Practices Are Booster Fuel for Your Business. Here's How to Establish the Right Ones. As a business leader, are you looking for your team to increase efficiency and productivity, improve communication and make better decisions? Creating a positive culture by implementing values and practices may be the answer.

By Eric Ryan

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As a long-time strategy consultant, I learned early on in my career that if I wanted my clients' businesses to succeed — financially and otherwise — then I had to first help them clarify and strengthen their business culture. This idea is backed by Peter Drucker, one of the most prominent management consultants of all time, when he said, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast."

Culture, however, is a pretty amorphous idea. It's sort of like love. You know what it feels like but it can be a hard thing to describe and/or know how to build. That's where your business' values and practices come in.

Values and practices clarify how your team thinks and acts and serve as the bedrock of your company culture. Capturing, communicating and living a succinct and well-defined set of values and practices is pure gold that directly leads to:

  • Increased efficiency
  • Better decision-making
  • Improved communication
  • Managed expectations
  • Stronger productivity
  • More effective hiring practices
  • Greater profitability

Here are some time-tested ideas about both creating values and practices and how to best implement them.

Related: Core Values: What They Are, Why They're Important, and How to Implement Them Today

Values vs. practices

Values and practices are similar in that they both are meant to describe the ways that you and your team think and act. However, values are more general and lofty while practices describe practical and specific actions.

Below is a brief list of some values and practices that will help you differentiate between the two.

Values

  • Accountability
  • Collaboration
  • Inclusion
  • Make it happen
  • Keep it simple
  • Not bound by convention
  • Persistence
  • Teamwork

Practices

  • Clear out email once per week
  • Express gratitude and appreciation
  • Invest in your professional growth
  • Leave meetings with clear next steps
  • Practice financial transparency
  • Seek first to understand
  • Serve while selling
  • Set outcomes-based agendas

As you can see, some of the values are only one word and others are short phrases; either way works. Also, note that each of the practices begins with a verb to make them active.

Related: Do Core Values Still Matter Today?

Some key tips for establishing values and practices

There are a variety of ways to establish and implement your ideas, but the most important thing is to focus on values first. Once you've created a set of values then you can move on to identifying your practices. It can be a bit much to tackle both at the same time, but your values can help inform your practices.

Resist the temptation to list all of the values of your business. What you're seeking are four core values that are especially unique to your business. You're looking for non-negotiable qualities of your company and culture that differentiates you from others in your space.

You want to keep your list of practices to a manageable size. I recommend having 10 practices. Because practices are much more specific and tactical, having a larger list than your values is fine.

When eliciting potential values and practices, ask your team for advice. Ask them about a staff member who represents what is best about your business. What are their core qualities? What do they do well? Alternatively, ask them to think of some former staff members that weren't a good match for your company. What were their qualities and/or work habits that made them a mismatch for your culture?

Related: 4 Reminders To Help Define Your Company's Values

Implementation and revision

After creating your values and practices, don't let them collect dust! Determine how you can apply them to daily operations so they stay top-of-mind and have a better chance at guiding the creation of your business culture. Here are some examples:

  • Share your values internally and externally. Being upfront about your values builds trustworthiness and long-term relationships with your team and customers. Post your values and practices into any company-wide publication such as your strategic plan, employee manual, business cards, posters for your office, meeting agendas, your website and even marketing materials.
  • Clearly communicate your values and practices during onboarding and training processes.
  • Make sure your management team is also embodying these values and leading by example.
  • Use your values as a filter in your hiring processes. Asking interview questions that relate to your values enables you to make more informed decisions when hiring. For example, if you have a value about teamwork, ask a candidate what role they usually play on a team or ask them to provide examples of a team failure or success they have experienced.
  • Celebrate your values. At my company, we set up a simple way for all employees to submit a video or text message of praise for anyone they see living out the values of our business. When we first started doing this, we required all team members to do this once a month with the hope that it would become ingrained in our culture. We then highlight these "shoutouts" during team meetings.
  • Get regular feedback from your team. We do this by sending a quarterly culture survey to our team. The survey asks them questions to determine if the values and practices are clear to them. It also asks them to rate which values and practices are most beneficial to the team and to their work. After collecting survey results, we meet as a team to discuss our values and practices.

As you implement your values and practices, you're going to learn about what works and what doesn't. As such, be prepared to revise them. At my company, we have a solid set of values and practices that we spent a fair amount of time creating. But as our business evolves and we bring on new team members, we revisit the values and practices and revise them as needed.

Eric Ryan

Founding Partner of Mission Met LLC

Eric Ryan is a founding partner at Mission Met, author, speaker and thought leader helping nonprofits develop and execute their strategic plan.

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