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What are Team Values and How Can we Create Them?

Our personal values serve as our moral and emotional compass. We may not consciously know what each of them are, but we do know when we are not feeling congruent with them. Examples of this include feeling indignant over a perceived injustice (possible value impacted here might be fairness) or feeling annoyed with someone who is consistently late (possible values impacted are respect, integrity, honesty).

The thing about values is that while you may value honesty and I might value honesty, the rules we each have about that value may not be the same. If we are working together and we don’t know this, we could each accidentally violate each other’s values and this could have an emotional impact on us at work.

So given we each have personal values and we all bring them to the work environment and given the potential emotional impact of accidental value violation on the feelings within and the culture of the team, it is important for teams to determine a shared set of values. To be truly cohesive, teams need to know what their collective values are and what their collective rules around each of them are too.

So how do you do that?

Getting the team together for a chat about it is a good way to go and using the following steps will give your meeting some structure.

  1. Give each individual the opportunity to answer the following questions privately and note down their answers
    1. What are my most significant and meaningful personal accomplishments?
    2. What is it that other people would say was important to me?
    3. What is important to me about the work that I do?
    4. What is important to me about belonging to this team?

Now ask each team member to decide the 3 most important things they have found out.

  1. In a group ask yourselves the following questions and capture using post it notes with one word or concept per note.
    1. What is important about the work that we do?
    2. What is important to us as a team?
    3. What are our most significant and meaningful team accomplishments
    4. How do we want others to see us as a team?
  2. Now put the post it notes up on the wall and group similar words or concepts together.
  3. Determine an overarching word or concept for each group of post it notes.
  4. Ask if anyone has anything to add

You may find that some of what you have are values and some of them may be rules around the values.

  1. Decide as a group, which of the words or concepts are the collective values of your team and for each of these work out how you will know the value is being met and how you will know it is not (this will become your group rules around the values).
  2. If you have to do this over a number of sessions to ensure everyone has contributed, take what you have done to the next group and explain it and then build on it using the same process. It is important that everyone in the team is involved.
  3. And finally, when knew staff join the team, ask for their input and update your team values – make sure that they are representative of your whole team all the time.
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