Managing Humans: Establishing Core Values

Today’s guest blog post is the fifth in a six-part series by Rachel Hands, Senior Manager, Client Administration, Patron Technology. Click here to start at part one. 

In this series, we’ve been looking at ways to cultivate strong managerial relationships with individuals; for the last two posts in the series, we’ll be looking at ways to establish a positive and productive team culture.

Don’t worry, I won’t make you do any trust falls with your staff. There’s a reason those are the most cliché of team-building activities, though: teams are made up of relationships, and relationships are built on trust. As a manager, you can help build trust among your team members by setting clear expectations regarding how they work together and interact. I recommend incorporating these expectations into your organization’s (or department’s) core values.

The kind of core values I’m talking about are different from your organization’s mission statement, which you probably have down cold, in multiple formats. It’s your raison d’être, and although you might have a few different ways to articulate it, it’s probably not changing (much) over time.

Core values are also different from your organization’s strategy — the specific steps you take to carry out your mission. The strategy probably will change over time, at least to some degree — even if your organization’s mission is historically informed performance of music from the 1700s, you’re probably selling tickets online and marketing your concerts via email and social media.

If your mission is your destination and your strategy is your planned route, your core values are your compass. They’re how you know you’re going in the right direction; they’re informed by your mission, and they can help guide your strategy. Like your mission statement, your core values should be things you don’t expect (or want) to change over time. (For more on these and related distinctions, check out this Harvard Business Review article.)

A complete set of core values doesn’t have to be long, but it should include guidelines on how to work as a team — guidelines that you’re willing to stick to, prioritize, and reinforce constantly. For example, on our Client Administration team at Patron Technology, our core values are empathy, integrity, and hospitality; each comes with a set of specific and explicit expectations for how they should be modeled in our everyday work, and we reinforce those expectations daily.

Once you’ve established a set of core values, the team’s trust is built via follow-through; the most important part of having a core value statement is that those expectations are reflected in your actions. Of course, there will be times when our actions don’t live up to those expectations; in order to maintain trust, we have to make our reactions to those mistakes align with our values. When we mess up, we apologize, we try to make it right, and we learn how to do better in the future.

(If you know me from real life or elsewhere on the internet, you might be surprised that I’ve made it this far in the blog series without mentioning Trailhead, the free online learning platform created by our partners at Salesforce. They’ve created some excellent and free materials covering these principles, and even if the last sentence was your first introduction to the name “Salesforce,” you can learn more about these concepts and get started on building your own set of team core values here.)

Knowing that we’re all moving in the same direction makes it much easier to accomplish our goals as a group, and knowing that we care about each other as a team makes it a lot more fun. In our last post in this series, we’ll discuss ways to make your team culture not just supportive, but also productive: setting up frameworks for collaboration, giving the team agency over certain decisions, and seeking and valuing ideas and input from the team wherever possible.

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