Defining your company’s vision is no easy task. How can you possibly condense what you do in your 60-hour weeks with your entire team and the grand vision behind it into a short and sweet sentence? You could probably write a 10-page article on what you’re up to, but one sentence? That’s a Challenge!
To begin the inquiry:
IDENTIFY YOUR COMPANY’S VALUES
It’s word-cloud time. Step up to the whiteboard, and brainstorm the value principles that matter most to your team. These are guiding principles that describe your product goals, development philosophy and work ethic.
These are the factors that your team members hold close to their hearts. They are moral and intellectual forces that help your organisation make decisions and choose direction.
As start-up leaders, we can’t assume that all of our personal values will become a part of the entire organisation. You need to listen more than talk to understand the values that your entire organisation embraces most. One of your chief roles as a founder or CEO is to prioritise and communicate what matters most to your group.
As start-up coach Dave Kashen puts it, “Select start-up values that enable team members to flourish and the company to win in the marketplace.”
The clearer you can communicate your vision, the more your team will understand it, work into it, live and breathe it for the organisation.
TAKE A LOOK INSIDE
The first place where you should start looking for organisational values is with yourself. On both personal and professional levels, what do you care about most?
The answers to that question are far from straightforward. It’s just like interviewing yourself. Use example questions like these:
- Does meeting a project deadline take priority over delivering exceptional work?
- Is a 10-hour company workday more important to you than happy team members?
- In what cases will you say ‘no’ to a customer or turn down a prospect?
- In what situations is it okay to sacrifice family time for work?
- What is one high standard you wouldn’t sacrifice for anything?
Your goal here is to raise awareness about topics that matter to you (and problems that need to be solved). These answers will steer the good habits and behaviours of the people who will actualise your vision.
Once you’ve gone through this process of introspection, take it a step further.
Encourage your team members to identify their own sets of questions in addition to the ones that you’ve established. Throughout the course of their roles and time, they will inevitably confront situations and decisions that will be unique to them. Create a number of diverse situations, both positive and negative that the organisation as a whole may one day encounter.
This dialogue will establish strong common ground. Find intersecting points and address your blind spots to create a full, 360-degree view.
Think of your job as a researcher, the CEO of your organisation. You can also identify organisational values by looking at how people work within your company and by identifying the actions the organisation has taken over in the last few years.
WHEN HAVE YOU FELT MOST ALIVE?
Your logical brain is only part of the equation. Pay attention to how you and your team members feel as well. Human beings are complex; we’re as motivated by our emotions as we are with our intellects. You can’t ignore either.
So put your EQ to work and figure out what makes you tick. Look at both positive and negative aspects of what you’re feeling.
Consider these questions:
- When have you felt most alive?
- What situations invoke the most intense emotions you’ve felt, both positively and negatively?
- What stories inspire you?
Answer these questions individually then as a group. It’s important to maintain both an individual and group-level view.
Sometimes, it takes a series of questions to help you drill down to the answers that matter most. These answers will highlight the values you’ll need to develop within your company in order for you to reach your greatest potential on both an individual and organisational level.