Separating Your Organizational Values

Separating Your Organizational Values

I’ve written several articles in the past few months around Telcion’s core values, and now I’d like to wrap that conversation up by providing some distinction between our core values and other values that we have. 

My favorite perspective on organizational values comes from another favorite book of mine called “The Advantage,” also by Patrick Lencioni.  In this book, he goes deep into why it’s so important to have core values, but he also spends time distinguishing between different types of values in order to get clarity on what’s most important.  

He divides organizational values into three categories:

1. Core Values
The values your organization considers most important.

2. Aspirational Values
The values you’d like to exhibit as often as possible.

3. Permission-to-Play Values
The values that are essentially a given. You’d expect anyone to have these in order to even participate in the organization. 

Core Values

We’ve already written in depth about our four core values. These are the ones that we have identified as absolutely core to who we are and essential to the culture we have here. They are: selflessness, work ethic, curiosity, and transparency.

Aspirational Values

Our aspirational values are ones we consider important, but not 100% who we are all the time. We still want to keep them in front us though. For instance, “fun” is one of these values for us. It’s important that we have fun and enjoy what we are doing and who we are doing it with.

If this was a core value, we’d be looking for how we can have fun all the time. If a day went by where we didn’t have fun, we’d be upset that this value was not being lived out.

The same goes with other values we’ve placed in this category, such as excellence. We absolutely want to be excellent in everything we do. But we’ve recognized that even though it’s important for us to strive for excellence, there is a big difference between 95% and 100%.

If excellence was a core value, we couldn’t be done with a task until it was 100% perfect. Instead, we strive for excellence but balance it with getting things done and accomplishing the tasks at hand in a timely manner.

Permission-to-Play Values

I often get asked about the permission-to-play bucket because people are surprised that it exists. These values for Telcion are: integrity, competency, professional, and trustworthy.   

At face value you might assume that these would be core values. And indeed, they are extremely important. But what happens in a lot of companies is that they end up putting these values into their “core” list, and the other values that should be in the core list get drowned out. 

What Patrick emphasizes in his book is that these kind of values need to be placed in a separate bucket that he calls permission-to-play values, because we expect every one to have them, they are non-negotiable, and if you don’t have them, you can’t work here. We expect 100% from this bucket of values. It’s not acceptable to only be 90% on any one of these. 

Benefits of Separating Your Values

Having these separate buckets of values helps an organization determine what is truly important for their specific culture and environment.  It also helps keep the list of core values short and easy to remember, which helps each person to learn and embody the associated behaviors.  

If you want to drive the culture in your organization, you will know what your values are and which bucket they go into so you can easily distinguish them and continually talk about them. 

Doing this has made a huge difference at Telcion over the last couple decades as we’ve developed a culture that people want to be participate in.  

This post was contributed by Lance Reid, Telcion’s CEO.

Additional Reading:
Hungry, Humble, Smart: Part 1
Company Culture During a Pandemic