Boston unConference, AgilityFeatAt last week’s unConference in Boston, presented by the  Mass Technology Leadership Council, I attended a great discussion about Mindfulness and Authentic Leadership at Work. The topic gathered a large and disparate group of participants from all levels of organizations. Within the first 10 minutes of the discussion, it became apparent that many in the group were struggling not only with how to maintain mindfulness in the workplace but more pressingly, how best to lead in a way that reinforces your company culture. Here are my takeaways and tips from the discussion.

1. Articulate Your Company’s Core Values

Jim Collins defines core values as the “essential and enduring tenets of an organization; A small set of timeless guiding principles, core values require no external justification; they have intrinsic value and importance to those inside the organization”. These are the tenets and beliefs that your company values above all others. While practices, products and even markets may change for your business, the core values do not. It’s critical for every company to define and document a set of core values in order to communicate them to the company.

2. Integrate Core Values into Your Hiring Process

So, you’ve got the values, now you need some people to nurture your company culture. One way to find the right people is to talk about your company values during interviewing. Many companies interview for skills but miss the opportunity to talk about values in their hiring processes. One way to screen for values is to present a candidate with a list of your company values and simply ask them to talk about a few. Ask for stories of how the candidate has demonstrated a particular value. By fostering open-ended conversations about your company values, you can draw out what each value means to each candidate and evaluate not only whether or not a candidate fits your culture but more importantly, you can evaluate their ability to add to your company culture. Over time, if you are able hire people to add to your culture, you will have taken a big step to ensuring that your company culture flourishes.

3. Welcome New Hires with a Letter

When hiring a new employee, it’s valuable to create a one to two page welcome letter explaining why you hired them and what you will be expecting from them on the team. The letter is a great way to make people feel special and also provides an opportunity to reinforce the company values. In addition, you can set expectations that define how you expect the company to be with the addition of the hire. Encourage the new hires to revisit the letters every month or so. The letter can be a great tool for creating a shared vernacular for new hires as well as a set of guidelines to help them stay focused on the results you hired them for in the first place.

4. Embed the Values in Your Processes

Company values become meaningless if you do find ways to integrate them into the everyday activities of your company. One way to do so is to use the values during reviews. For example, prior to reviewing an employee, ask their teammates how they feel about the employee’s performance relative to each value. These open ended types of questions will provide a valuable mosaic of the reviewed employee’s performance as well as a temperature check into how the company values are perceived throughout the team. Other ideas include sharing stories about how employees are demonstrating company values during company meetings.

Have a tip about how you are hacking company culture? Drop me line here.