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We began in 2010 by drafting our core values for the first time. Alex and I had done this before with our other companies and we knew that core values were something that we already possessed. We just had to discover what they were, articulate them and then build our business around them. We knew too that once we articulated our values and put them together with our stated behaviors, we would have a defined culture. And a defined culture would be a bedrock on which to hire, lead, manage and fire team members.
We were excited too about creating an environment where people would thrive so that they could be the best that they could be. And what better environment than one that is the most diverse group of team members one can imagine but is one where everyone makes decisions similarly, using the same compass so to speak. No one can argue with a decision made based on an agreed set of values that everyone has bought into. It is also empowering in that everyone has the ability to make decisions without referring to a supervisor or manager. We now experience our core values being lived on a daily basis.
So how does one determine the core values of an existing organization? One way, and the one that we used because I had seen it work before, was listing the characteristics of our best employee(s.) Then we, as a management team, wordsmithed these characteristics into a few sentences, reflected on them for a few days and gave them the all-important reality check. We needed to live with them and feel that they were an accurate reflection of our culture, could be applied effectively and felt right in a gut-check kind of a way.
The end result was a good first step. At 389 words, it was a little wordy but it was descriptive enough that everyone could understand the true meaning so we continued the discussion with the rest of the team.
We were only 11 employees at that time so it wasn’t hard but we knew we were on the right track when one of our team members resigned right after the meeting at which we discussed them with the company. That was a much faster result than we expected but it showed how powerful they can be! We immediately realized that he was right – he was not a fit. He couldn’t work as a team and he did not buy into a culture of open, honest feedback – two of our core values. He knew it and he opted out. Our newly inked core values were starting to take root. Soon, they would flourish through out the organization and help sustain Lextech through 3 years of rapid growth and support an eventual team size of nearly 50.