Values are the building blocks of every organization. Most organizations invest a lot of time and resources crafting a value statement that captures the core beliefs and principles guiding the organization’s mission and practice – its identity. Given its importance, it surprises me when value statements are tucked away on a website collecting virtual dust.

There are many reasons for the under-utilization of value statements in guiding organizational practice. Sometimes a founding leader crafted the value statement and the organization has grown, but the value statement has not been updated or refined. Or, senior management created the value statement without staff input. Also, poorly written value statements that are vague or convoluted, for example, are easy to ignore. There are many templates and tutorials readily available online that can help you create an effective value statement.

What is most important about a value statement, however, is that it is lived in the daily decisions and actions of leadership and staff. When actions are not aligned with the stated values, the values ring hollow and it fosters low staff morale, undermines credibility, and tarnishes the organization’s reputation. Living your value statement requires awareness and affirmation through action.

Here are three simple strategies for maximizing your value statement:

Step 1: Solicit input from everyone inside the organization when crafting the value statement. Developing a value statement should not be an exercise by senior leadership only. It will be a waste of time if management develops a list of core values that do not resonate with staff. One simple way to get staff buy-in is to have staff brainstorm a list of values. Review the initial list and choose the top ten. Leadership and staff can jointly discuss the top 10 values and trim the list further to the top five. The top five values should be your core values – these are non-negotiable values that withstand changes in leadership, organizational priorities, operating environment, or the world around you.

Step 2: Be assertive when sharing your value statement. For example, post it on your website site, social media outlets, all of your communication materials, and in common spaces. Make sure that every department director and manager has a copy of the values statement. Add the value statement to every new employee’s onboarding packet and communicate its importance to the team and the organization.

Step 3: Reference the value statement every time you are making an important decision. For example, managers should review the value statement when hiring new staff or conducting performance reviews. Use it as a yardstick for measuring every internal and external engagement against your core values. Revisit your value statement at staff retreats or strategy meetings to assess how well you are aligning your core values with your daily practices.

Taveras3’s core values – excellence, integrity, and commitment – are not a tagline. We live out these values in every aspect of our work and interactions. We make sure that our deliverables and written products are completed on time, are polished, and most importantly, meet or surpass our clients’ expectations. Our facilitated conversations are respectful and courteous, and our clients are informed and engaged throughout our partnership. Our success is grounded in our client’s success, therefore, ensuring that we have shared values is an important first step toward a fulfilling working relationship.

Values are the oxygen that gives your organization life so make sure that you are aware of and embrace your core values, that you communicate your values effectively internally and externally, and that you live out your values in your daily practice and decision making.

So, what are your organization’s core values and how are they reflected in your decision-making and operations?