High-performing teams are driven by shared values that run deeper than a drive for profit. Because they can engage with values like integrity, bravery, loyalty, and trust, value-driven teams get their motivation from a sense of higher purpose. They seek out opportunities and tackle problems together as part of a healthy, safe, and productive organizational culture.
Here are three values exercises for teams, to get them back in touch with their values.
1. Manifesto Writing
Why: Discovering or exploring values; encouraging value-driven action
How: Discussion, goal design, and commitment
What You’ll Need: List of debate questions, whiteboard/large sheets of paper/Post-Its, and pens.
To prepare for this exercise, create a handout with some engaging debate questions.
– If you could leave a team ‘legacy’ behind once you’ve retired, what would that be?
– How does your team want to be remembered? What behaviors? What accomplishments?
– What key themes can you identify from these answers? Which are the most important?
1. Split your group into smaller teams and hand each the list of questions.
2. Give each team pens, writing materials, and 25 minutes to work their way through the list of questions. As they progress, they will discover core themes – or values – based on their aspirations. Invite them to write these down.
Tip: Your teams may wish to write down their aspirations, ideal accomplishments, and dream behaviors before highlighting or circling common themes in a different color.
3. These key values will be the basis for your teams’ manifestos. Once they have their value lists, reconvene the large group for a few minutes and share the teams’ top few values with the larger group. Do you all identify any similar themes? The guiding question here is: Which of these values are most important to you as a team?
4. Return the groups to their discussions for 25 more minutes. They will now discuss the following questions to design and create their manifesto:
– What actions line up with those top values? What can you do to live or embody those values? And finally,
– Which are you willing to commit to?
After this exercise, your teams will have a manifesto of value-driven actions that they are willing to commit to collectively. Examples might include “Be curious, open-minded, and inquisitive,” or “Turn ‘problems’ into ‘opportunities’.”
2. “We are…”
Why: Reaffirming values, Connecting With Shared Purpose
How: Brainstorming, Communication
What You’ll Need: Values Statement or Manifesto, Post-Its, Writing Materials
This exercise is perfect for a team which already has a values statement, or it can be used with your company’s values more broadly. Alternatively, it can be a great follow-on exercise to the Manifesto Writing activity above.
1. Divide your larger team into smaller groups of 6-8 people and give each group a copy of the values statement. Ask them to pin or lay it out somewhere that every member can see it.
2. Give the teams 15-20 minutes to identify the main values in the statement and discuss what they mean. For each main value, encourage them to come up with several examples of times they have embodied that value in their lives.
Example: For “Courage,” someone might mention “Whistle-blowing”, “Risk-Taking”, or “Innovating.”
3. Have them write these down on the Post-Its provided and stick them to the corresponding value – the more the merrier!
4. Then, give the teams some time to reflect on the example actions before asking them to decide which best represent the values. They can then turn these into “We are…” statements, e.g. “We are pioneering”, “We are respectful of each other”, or “We are enterprising.”
Values-focused discussion helps teams move forward in alignment with the things that matter most. By using company values as a starting point, your teams can identify with and make much better sense of your strategic objectives.
3. Values In Action Brainstorming
Why: Encourage Outside-the-box Thinking, Team Building
How: Communication, Discussion, Problem-Solving
What You’ll Need: Values Cards.
Prepare some Values Cards for this exercise – these are simply blank cards with a value written on them. They may be general or they might be your official company values. Examples include transparency, efficiency, kindness, excellence, acceptance, and so forth.
1. Split your team into pairs and give them the cards with the values written on them. Place them between partners in a pile, face down.
2. Have one partner tell a story about a common workplace difficulty or a similar experience that they have been through. For instance, struggling with tough customers or being given an ambiguous/overly complex task. They should outline the problem as factually and impartially as possible, without sharing what they imagine the solution might be.
3. Their partner picks a Values Card from the pile and offers a practical solution that is based on that value.
To perform well on this exercise, partners need to work together and discuss realistic solutions, while considering how values might be integrated into everyday actions.