Getting Your Core Values Off Your Walls
I have not been to a corporate office where the company’s core values are not displayed on walls, either framed or painted as murals. There is something admirable about organizations who go out of their way to remind their people about the beliefs they have sworn to uphold through their work.
But as I walk through hallways lined up with abstract words like Integrity, Passion, Service, Excellence, Teamwork, Trust, etc., I cannot help but wonder how many of these abstract values resonate with every last member of the organization? How real are these values to them? How successful are these companies in making sure these values do not just line up their halls but also the hearts and minds of their people?
Some companies might organize seminars or workshops, explaining the core values and teaching the members how to apply them at work. Some might produce videos, multimedia, and other corporate communications tools to preach these values to everyone.
I’d like to propose a simple and more inclusive solution. Of course, it is storytelling. But more than just telling real stories that reflect these values and sharing it with everyone, it might be more powerful if you enlisted the entire organization in the storytelling effort. Instead of preaching your story, ask for stories. Here are some initiatives that you can pilot in your organization:
Conduct a short and simple anecdote writing workshop. Teach members of your organization to document real stories from the workplace using the short written form. Focus on the skills of accuracy and concreteness in writing and have them write their real stories with the length of a social media post.
Ask them to write one story a month. Ask them to recall any real stories in the workplace (or even at home) that concretely depicts a core value of the organization that resonates with them. The story does not have to be about them, although it would be better if it were. What is important is that they are real stories, and that enough time is given to refine the telling of it through the written form.
Create a story portal or platform where all of these stories written by the members of the organization can be published and shared. It can be an online portal, a social media platform, an internal newsletter, or even a printed, published zine or book to be distributed to the entire community. Devise some reward system for the most creative story, or most resonating, or the best that depicts the core values being discussed.
These initiatives allow you to glean as much stories from your people as possible, stories that are grounded and real, and can serve as concrete examples of the company’s core values. The written stories will facilitate easier knowledge sharing. The stories, especially when spread around enough to reach the level of “gossip” or “legend”, can become the bedrock of the organization’s corporate culture. Not only can these stories transfer knowledge and best practices, it can define the company’s collective narrative and embed the core values into the hearts of the people more effectively.
It is good to have reminders of your core values displayed at every nook and corner of the workplace. But with the power of stories, you can get them off your walls and make them come to life.