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How to Build a Values-Based Organization: Tips from Author Daniel Forrester

“Why do you exist, and why should anyone care?” This is a question every company should be asking itself, according to Daniel Forrester, author of “Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization.”

The self-described “navigator of organizational and cultural change” believes there’s a shift taking place in the business world today — a shift toward values-based cultures, and millennials are driving it.

“Millennials are very high-purpose driven individuals. They have a civic sensibility — they don’t want to just come work for a company that sells high-fructose corn syrup. They want something deeper. They want a vision that’s inspiring, and it’s values that tie that together,” Forrester says. Therefore, if companies want to stay relevant and competitive over the long term, they need to evolve to create cultures that are based on values.

Three Steps to Building a Values-Based Organization

“Values-based organizations are the ones that live at a higher level of nurturing and strengthening their cultures, and they’re going to make the huge difference in this century,” Forrester says. Below, in his own words, Forrester outlines three steps for how leaders can work toward turning their own companies into values-based organizations.

1. Start with “why?” The first thing an organization has to do is learn from Simon Sinek and start with “Why?” Why do you exist and why should anyone care? Look at Southwest Airlines: Their “why” — their mission — is to give ordinary people the opportunity to fly. That’s why they exist, and that’s why anyone should care, and it’s beautifully stated. When you get that language right, you have a foundation upon which a culture can start to be built. Because that’s what people are looking for. They want to know, “Why do you exist?” “Do I believe in why you exist?” and “Am I motivated by it?” The “why” is the baseline.

2. Define your core values. You can’t move toward a values-based view of an organization until you have chosen core values. Leadership teams can declare, “These are our core values, and everybody get in line,” but the great ones take a step back to ask their people the following questions first:

  • “What are your personal values?”
  • “Have you experienced them in our culture today?”
  • “What do you believe our values are?”
  • “What should our values be?”

I encourage my clients to think about three to four core values at the most because 1) it’s very difficult to remember more than four, and 2) any more than that and they’re going to duplicate one another. Keep it small. You want to have great definitions of it.

3. Communicate constantly. The last — and most difficult — part about building a values-based organization culture is that leaders have to talk about it constantly — whether through the performance evaluation process, regular feedback or recognition systems.  When leaders do not practice the values and talk about them on a daily basis, those values become what I call “a plaque on the wall,” and that’s not acceptable. At that point, the culture breaks down because nobody’s really enforcing it, and people lose faith in it.

Tell us: How do you define your organizational values? How do you reinforce them on a daily basis?

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.


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