How-to: Create Team Values
I worked to figure out my team’s values and found it to be a worthwhile process.
I go over the process I used in creating my team’s values when we did not have any.
If you want to create your team’s values, you will see what results I’ve gained from learning my team’s values and how I approached the process.
This article will take you about four minutes to read.
When I was part of the team, I always wanted to be on a team with values. I read about the “black team” at MicroSoft, where everyone would wear “black”. (Maybe it was in Microserfs?)
Well, I’m managing a team, does our team have “values”?
Can I fix that?
Yes, let’s do it!
Why Spend the Effort?
Teams I have been on are so busy that there’s no time to figure out their values. Sometimes someone “above” gives the values.
As much as I like “values from above” - it’s important to develop an understanding of the team’s values. The team values should align higher level company values at the same time, be specific to the immediate team instead of the whole company.
At the same time, figuring out what each team member values and making sure everyone on the team knows how each other understand the values. Nothing worse that misunderstandings. Having this shared understanding is powerful in a group.
When the team knows their values, they can hold each other accountable to them, not just me!
As a manager, which would you rather choose? :-)
What Results have I Seen?
These are some of the results I have experienced after working with the team to make the team’s values explicit:
- It makes me giving feedback easier as I can look at an individual behaviors and actions and think which value of the value it is.
- There’s no guessing what the team value is, I know my team better. I can make decision on what work the team can take based on values alignment.
- From the team, they like having the values work done as a group. They have a stronger sense of team identity towards their work.
I have to say these results have been worthwhile and I would encourage any manager to go through in figuring out their team’s values.
How to Figure Out Team Values?
One thing in my experience about reading about team values so far: none have said how to create (or discover) the team’s values.
Either a team has them or don’t.
Well, my team didn’t have them and I want them.
This is the approach I took to understanding my team’s values:
- dedicated meeting time
- dedicated space to freely discuss
- post its and pens
- whiteboard with markers
With that, these are the steps I took:
- At the end of a staff meeting, I asked everyone in my team to list out
their values for the team. (It’s important to understand each team
member’s communication style here!)
- goal: to get a wide range of values
- I collected all the values into anonymous lists and presented again
for everyone to see. Ask team to individually review them and select
the ones that give them an emotional response (positive or negative)
- goal: to have everyone see which ones “call” to them.
- Take the ones that provoked the most emotional responses and define
them with examples.
- goal: get a shared understanding of each value, especially general ones such as trust or kindness.
- Repeat the previous step until the values satisfies everyone.
- goal: really nail them down until they’re crystal clear to everyone.
I had about 2-3 days between each step, sometimes even a week for the team to think over. I did have each meeting limited to one hour as focus dropped quickly after an hour.
I would not recommend doing all of these steps in a day.
What are My Team values?
This is the result of the process I took with my team:
- We trust each other by being dependable and having confidence in others.
- We show mutual respect by treating others the way we want to be treated and appreciating each other’s differences.
- We communicate openly with transparency & without fear of consequences.
- We are kind by being inclusive and uplifting.
- We have humility by not being arrogant and no entitlement.
- We produce well-crafted code by:
- Making mistakes, learning from mistakes, and moving forward
- Acting well, even when no one is looking
- Working with end-users
(Bonus point: can you guess which one I influenced?)
I am proud of the values my team has. It motivates me to work more for the team and to know they share these values.
If I Had to do It All Over Again
The big question: now that you’ve done this process once, what would you do differently?
I would do it in a similar manner. The time between meetings worked well to have everyone be confident in our decisions.
One thing I would definitely do is suggest one or two that are explicity ones that I want the team to trend towards. That would make it easier for me (and the team) later to steer the team in a particular direction using these values.
It was my dream to be on a team with explicit values.
Now that I’m managing a team, I created our team’s values by going through a process of having team members share their values for the team and working together to define them in a clear way.
It’s been worthwhile and I enjoy the team values. It’s been useful for work in giving feedback and understanding how the team thinks about work.
If you know how or have ideas on creating team values, contact me