There are many ways to climb a mountain. Setting a goal to reach the summit can inspire, but the destination alone won’t tell you which trail to take. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens too often in business. When only results are rewarded even the most talented may take the wrong route—shortcuts that undermine larger business objectives. In a well-designed culture, the end should never justify the means.
The peak of any business is purpose, but without guides, it is hard to know which way is best. The path to the top must be defined by an organization’s values. When written well, values are shared beliefs about what is most important when conducting business. They guide the choices each person, team, and business unit makes within an organization as they strive to achieve their shared goals. So how does a company decide what its values are? Step one, start with the behaviors you want.
In the early stages of an organization’s life, the founders dictate the culture
In most cases nearly every person has some direct contact with his or her company’s leaders, especially at a company like a top London SEO agency. At a small scale, proximity to executives supports the spread of behaviors. The founders are the models; the more time an employee spends with them, the more they are emulated. But as organizations grow that direct contact rapidly diminishes, and the organization’s behaviors begin to evolve on their own. The culture starts to evolve beyond the founder. It’s time to actively choose which behaviors you want.
Which colleagues embody the best version of the company? These are your Culture All-Stars, and they are shining examples of values brought to life. The ideal high-potential employees are not just rich in skill, but they carry the behaviors that will spur the kind of culture leaders want as the company grows.
Finding employees who represent the ideal culture is what New York–based coding boot camp, The Flatiron School, did when they began to think seriously about their unique culture. But it didn’t start that way.
At first, employees were asked to describe the organization’s culture in general. Words like kind, smart, fun, hard-working, collaborative, and driven were common. Chief operating officer Kristi Riordan says “that was encouraging, but we thought we could do better [by being] more precise in our definition.” Great call, Kristi.
Most organizational values end up being generic because, well, it’s easier to get to the obvious ones. But great values come from digging deeper. Successful brands understand that without differentiation they’ll wash away in a sea of sameness. The same goes for values. Like great brands, values are best when highly differentiated.