Your organisation’s values say what kind of people you are and what you stand for. They reflect how you do your work when you’re at your best.

If there’s something real behind them, your values make you stand out. They help you attract and keep staff who will bring their best to the work. They help you become a leader people want to follow. They are the ultimate differentiator and driver of long-term customer loyalty.

But usually values statements are just some nice words somebody stuck in the strategy document and put on posters around the office. They are abstract, empty and meaningless. And if they don’t match what people see happening around them, they breed shadow stories and cynicism.

To be real, values need to reflect who you are when you’re at your best, and they need to have examples behind them to make them concrete.

Here are three questions to help you find your values. Answering these will also give you some stories that show what they mean in action. 

  1. Think of a time when you were particularly proud of your work or your team’s work. What happened? What values or characteristics were important in this example?

  2. Think of a time you felt you or your team missed an opportunity or missed the mark. What happened? What important values or characteristics could have made a difference?

  3. Think of a time you saw someone demonstrate a characteristic your organisation needs, whether it was here or somewhere else. What happened?

Another great thing about values is that they can be translated into behaviours, which means they can be measured. And these will be measures that matter. Once you’ve identified your values, think about ways they can be turned into actions.