We are not living our values. What do I do?

Dear NLOV,

This is a wonderful, hope-filled question. Many leaders work hard to build their company on positive values. Like all healthy routines, we know this effort takes practice, adjustments, and regular assessment of how well your values are modeled in action.


Here are a few practical steps to help you answer your question. 

1. Be Very Clear about What Matters Most

If you don’t already have a list of behaviors and actions you want your organization to be living, create one. You can use phrases or one word. The trick is having definitions of what it would mean if you caught someone in the act of living the value out. If a list already exists, you may want to revisit yours and keep going until they are so clear you can put them on a button or a t-shirt. Here’s ours.

2. Get All-In Commitment

Bring your list of values to your next leadership meeting. Ask the group how well the list captures who your team is at its best and explore commitment level to what you’ve outlined. Explore what’s missing and what could be better. You don’t want people saying, “I’m kinda in on that integrity thing… I’ll do my best.” Commitment is the foundation for accountability when it comes time to put values to action.

3. Reinforce with Stories of Values in Action on a Regular Basis

At every staff meeting, ask the team to share stories of how they’ve seen the values in action. When we asked this of our team, we shared things like:

Value: Stronger Together

Story: Katie helped Suzanne draft an email, cutting out words to make her point more clear

Story: Rather than reinvent the wheel, Jana developed a new workshop offering using a presentation Chris gave two weeks prior

Value: Commit to Better

Story: Last year we went through a city-sponsored program to replace all of our lighting with LED options to reduce our energy use

Story: We kindly call out when data is missing in our weekly reports and recommit to a deadline for when all inputs must be received 

In your conversations, if people have lots of stories on a certain category you can bet that value is being lived out. If instead, people are struggling to come up with examples, the value may be more aspirational and need attention. 

4. See How Your Values Are Embedded in Your Business

Experiencing your company’s values is one side of the equation. The other is knowing the impact of the informed choices you are making when you have people and your community in mind. 

The B Corp’s Impact Assessment is a wonderful tool to measure social, environmental, and community impacts for both your employees and your customers. This free tool provides a baseline for your organization and areas of improvement where you can make adjustments to build a better business. 

5. Look Outside Yourself & Company 

Advisor Suzanne Coffman recently returned from the B Corp Champions Retreat and was inspired by their call to the Power of Collective Action. We’ve always believed teams are stronger when they work together well and we invite leaders to look outside of themselves for support, mentorship, and creative ideas. 

One way to do this is to make a list of businesses you admire. Which leaders align with your values and how can you be challenged to improve your impacts?  Where could you work together on projects to move the dial forward? 

Rather start with a group already underway? We love the B Corp Movement, Small Giants, Great Game of Business and Business for a Better Portland

6. Move beyond checking boxes

Regularly evaluating progress on goals is essential to increased team success. Many teams make adjustments and can increase diversity demographics or reduce their energy use with gusto. We’ve found, however, teams best demonstrating their values use their living, breathing lists to make decisions and hold teams accountable to the choices they’re investing in.

When choosing a new supplier or drafting a bereavement policy, consider how your values are showing up in the choices you are making to serve your people, your products, and your community.

NLOV, this work can be humbling and hard. Whether you’re preparing for a significant transition, are a founder with values near and dear to your heart, or your goal is to foster greater commitment from your team, we’d love to help. Let’s find a time to talk.