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The Mayor’s Tips for CEO’s codifying their Core Values


Part of my vision for RTOWN is to scale it up to be a large, purposeful business while maintaining its soul.

This is a difficult task for companies and company founders to achieve.

All too often organizations get to a size and move past the days where many hats were being worn by a smaller, well-aligned team charging toward making their dent in the universe.

Those days are often replaced by days where departmental silos form. These silos are often lead by big egos who believe in an independent vision where their department is the backbone of the organization and, therefore, the organization should organize around its priorities. Or, even more often, these ‘heads’ blame other departments for causing theirs to miss targets. “Well if only the product from development shipped on time!” “If only marketing had delivered enough leads!” “If only they would share information with each other!”

This type of in-fighting goes on and senior executives, the most expensive brains in the organization, end up spending the majority of their time politicking, defending their turf, pursuing hidden agendas and fighting for a bigger slice of the organizational pie. Trust breaks down. Meanwhile their neglected mid-level managers and front line staff (THE most important areas of the business) spend some of their time doing the meaningful work required to deliver customer success and some of their time looking for the next, hopefully more harmonious company to work with.

(Note that I use the word ‘with’; not ‘for’. Look for upcoming blog posts on The Inverted Org Chart and Permission-Based Leadership).

So what does it mean for a company to be soulful? To have a soul? It’s a nebulous word, like love, and sceptics will say: “how do you measure it?” and “If you can’t measure it, it’s not real.” Thankfully we have words; and words have definitions; meaning. So to those sceptics, I say: “if it’s in writing, it’s real.” “If people know it, it exists.” Just like love.

When we say soul, we’re talking about culture. When we talk about culture, we talk about the day-to-day habits of RTOWNers. What we do and how we do it; day in and day out. We’re talking about one team aligned around one vision, one purpose and one set of core values we hold in the highest esteem. No silos; thank you very much!

RTOWN has taken some of its cues from thought leaders like Verne Harnish and fast growth companies in Vancouver like 1-800-GOT-JUNK? , Clearly Contacts and Nurse Next Door.

Put simply, we believe that values-driven organizations make meaning. When you work with meaning, with purpose, it doesn’t feel like work at all. But first, you have to codify these things. They must be written. And they must be known by everyone involved with the organization.

We recently held our first annual RTOWN retreat where several hours of work on our core values leading up to our retreat, culminated in us defining them together as follows:

Team Over Individuals
Remarkable Customer and Team Experience
Uncover a Better Way
Surplus for Purpose

For our full meaning on each, please follow this link: rtown.ca/corevalues

While it’s still fresh in my mind, here are five pointers I thought worked for RTOWN that other CEO’s could benefit from in trying to codify their own set of core values:

  1. Involve your team. Building together is stronger than building alone.
  2. Have someone else moderate your working sessions. Sit with your team; let someone else lead it.
  3. Don’t rush it. Values are forever. They don’t change and your company’s culture will be defined by them.
  4. Get out of the office. Do it outside or in a setting where ideas can easily flow.
  5. Do it sooner; rather than later. The sooner you have them, the sooner you can get on with hiring and firing based on them. They will help you know who is and will be on your bus and who isn’t and won’t be.

Like this post? Have any ideas to share on how you came to your company’s core values? Any other tips for entrepreneurs? Please write me: luke@rtown.ca – I’d love to hear from you.