So you’ve taken the time to set your EOS® Core Values. You and the leadership team have spent who knows how long identifying the what you really stand for, condensing that into a few short words, and agreeing that those words represent you. You even knocked it out of the park with your EOS Core Values™ speech. The hard part is over. But that doesn’t mean you’re finished. Now it’s time to go about reinforcing EOS Core Values.
There are two parts to reinforcing EOS Core Values. First, you have to repeat the message often enough that your organization believes it to be important enough to remember. A large part of selling a message is convincing the audience that it isn’t fleeting, that you’re sticking to your guns. That takes repetition and commitment.
Second, you need to live by the EOS Core Values you chose. That means the leadership team need to be a shining example of those values, sure. But there is more to it than that. If just the leadership team lives by the values, they have no real impact on the lives of the majority of your company. That’s why you need to ensure everyone in the company is being held accountable to those values.
Part 1: Reinforcing EOS Core Values With Repetition
The first task is always to get people on the same page with you. This means defining the EOS Core Values to the extent that there is no room for misinterpretation. Beyond that you need people on the same page as you in regards to your level of commitment. This requires going toe-to-toe with a very powerful foe: apathy. In most organizations change is met by apathy. Employees see new concepts, rules, or strategies and they ignore them. To most folks, it’s easy to write new ideas off as “flavor of the week” or something they can just keep their head down and will eventually go away.
It’s your job to combat that natural tendency. You do so by making sure that your Core Values are a part of every single day. And you keep doing that until they just become part of the vocabulary. Like social media, they are no longer some passing phase. They’re a part of the world. Doing so takes time. It’s a process that won’t happen over night.
Start that process with these steps.
Fill The Space With Core Values
This is a simple and effective place to start. You fill the office with examples, explanations, or other messages reinforcing EOS Core Values. This can be posters, employee of the month plaques, outrageous decorations, or something more specific to your core values. The way you choose to do it can be as simple or complex as you like. The point is that you design the space in a way that constantly reminds people of what your organization stands for.
Many people associate this approach with cheesy, bad boss behavior. That’s because bad bosses take this step and just stop. They fill the office with posters idealizing core values that no one actually follows. The idea of making your EOS Core Values part of the work space isn’t cheesy or bad. Thinking that a few posters alone will have the desired effect? Yeah, that’s setting yourself up for failure.
Use EOS Core Values In Events And Announcements
From time to time any company is going to host internal events or make internal announcements. These are the speeches, the annual reports, the Christmas parties. They aren’t always formal, but they are always big. Some companies host quarterly “state of the company” meetings. This is a perfect example of an announcement opportunity. As a general rule, if 75% or more of your company will attend an event or read/listen to this announcement, it counts.
When you are coordinating these announcement events, take the time to work the message of your EOS Core Values into the event. That doesn’t just mean whatever speech you are planning. That means working them into every aspect. From the wording to the decorations, this is your chance to make the core values of your company a bonding experience.
This may be best illustrated by example. I used to work with this wonderful little cyber security company. The company recently had their 10th anniversary. They threw a big party, renting a huge venue with an open bar. There were games, a photobooth, the works. As part of the celebration they put together a video interview of the employees that had been there the longest. These were mostly the head honchos, people on the leadership team. Instead of stuffy suits and serious faces half of the team wore these huge animal costume heads, the kind you see at Disney World.
The result was a video that would have been seen as post-modern insanity in most places. But to this team it was perfect. It absolutely screamed that the core values of this team were silliness, honesty, and a love for the work. If you can pull that off, you’ll not just be telling people the EOS Core Values, you’ll be reinforcing them.
Embed Core Values In Your Public And Internal Communications
Finally we get to the end of the repetition process. This is where we make sure we are reinforcing EOS Core Values by making them part of our vocabulary.
Internally, this means encouraging employees to sprinkle the core values in whatever communications they have. Everything from internal emails to training videos should use the language.
Externally, this is when you start showing your EOS Core Values to the world. Your goal is to let every person you deal with – from customers to B2B service providers – know exactly who your company is. Put them on the website, the business card, wherever you can. This level of pride in the core values accomplishes two big things.
First, you are showing the people within the organization that you are going to stay honest with your public and private culture. You’re making it clear that the values the team uses every single day to communicate are exactly the same as the ones people externally associate with us.
Second, you’re filtering out unfortunate relationships. Your EOS Core Values set you apart in a great way. But, if you’re truly living by them, not everyone will want to be in business with you. This is a good thing. If you value honesty, doing business with dishonest folks is just going to cause unnecessary stress. Skip the stress by wearing your values on your sleeve.
Part 2: Reinforcing EOS Core Values By Living Them
Of course, you can’t just talk the talk. You have to walk the walk. If you want your organization to live by the core values you’ve set, the people at the top need to led the charge. As I’ve written before, this involves being a shining example of those core values. But there’s more to it than that.
Beyond your own behavior, it’s necessary to bring your core values into the official processes that help define the experience at your company. That means hiring, firing, rewarding, and making decisions off of those values.
What’s the most surefire way to be sure the people in your organization exemplify your core values? Only hire people that already believe in them.
Unfortunately that is easier said than done. 99% of people that you interview are going to say what they think you want them to say. Why? They want the job. That’s what makes your hiring process so very critical. If you hire people that don’t believe in your core values you will have one of two results. When the core values are highly established, the employee eventually won’t fit in and will quit. If they values are new or tenuous, that person may damage the chances of the core values taking hold.
So, you need to fine tune your hiring process to leave as little room for error as possible. There’s no way to be perfect, but here are a few good litmus tests that I’ve seen in the past. Work these into your hiring process and you will greatly increase the likelihood that you’re hiring people that align with your core values.
Reinforcing EOS Core Values With Hiring Questions
- Make the company core values prominent in the job listing. This weeds out people who are just casually browsing and attracts people who might not otherwise consider your listing.
- List a few words, including one of your values. Ask which the candidate identifies with.
- Have the candidate describe their values at the beginning of the interview. Don’t prompt them with your own values. Give them the chance first.
- Ask the candidate point blank how they feel about your core values. Describe the values and gauge their reaction. Do they hesitate? Are they fidgeting when you say “total honesty”?
- Have the candidate talk about the cultures or values of their past places of employment. What are they highlighting or avoiding?
- Describe a situation that they could reasonably face in the position and ask how they would act. Does the answer align with your values?
Reinforcing EOS Core Values In Meetings
The EOS Level 10 Meeting is a great place to reinforce core values. During the IDS Process™ your team will be solving a lot of issues. This rapid fire problem solving has an immense value all by itself. But there is an added value that many teams could take advantage of.
After the solution is presented, you simply ask the team, “does this align with our core values? Is this solution …” and list the core values. In a few short seconds you give the team a) a reminder of the values and b) a chance to course correct when the values aren’t being honored.
Reward and Reprimand
All companies reward and reprimand employees. Heck, all organizations do it, even the informal ones. The difference between “all companies” and “good companies” is often as simple as a well defined reward and reprimand structure. This can be best understood from the employee perspective. How can you know what to do, if the company doesn’t make clear what it will reward or punish you for? You can’t. And uncertainty is the quickest path to unhappiness.
But even companies that have well defined structures can underutilize them. Let me illustrate with an example. I started working with a company some years ago that put a lot of emphasis on sales. One day we had this conversation.
- Me: So, I see that all of the bonuses last year went to the sales team. Is that right?
- CEO: Yes. We find that rewarding them for selling is a great incentive to keep doing so.
- Me: Sure. That makes sense. But, what about the other people in your company doing great things?
- CEO: Like who?
- Me: It said in (X)’s performance review that last year she donated nearly 20% of her salary to charity.
- CEO: Yeah. We are really proud of her, but that didn’t really help the company.
- Me: It didn’t? Your first EOS Core Value is “giving heart” and this seems like the most extreme example I’ve seen.
I won’t bore you with the continued details, but I think you see the point. The company was missing massive opportunities to reward people who were doing something that is just as important as making sales – demonstrating core values.
To make your company core values stick, you need to make them important. And a human being defines important as something that can result in either a good or a bad outcome. It’s as simple as that. When employees stop thinking that their adherence to core values will never be rewarded, they will stop adhering. By the same token, if people think they can shirk the core values and never get in trouble, they will do exactly that.
Meet the Founder
Jeff Whittle founded and launched Whittle & Partners in 2011. Before that, Jeff practiced law in Dallas for 15 years and has an additional 20 years of executive business experience. He has run businesses ranging from startups to 300-employee operations.