541-410-5576 [email protected]

This article first appeared in Cascade Business News February 05, 2020

If you were to ask one of your employees what the mission statement and core values of your business are, would you be shocked by their response? 

As business leaders we spend time and energy creating our mission and building values to shine as guiding lights for our business. We put them in our employee handbook and write them in big bold letters on the wall of our reception areas… and then we are baffled and upset when our co-workers can’t recall what they are. 

In order to have company values really take root we need to move beyond talking about them once during the onboarding process by giving them the weight they deserve and operationalize them. 

Here are three steps to move your values from decoration to decorum.

  1. Communicate: The stories that we tell both internally and externally as a company should include value driven statements. This starts with leadership weaving value rich language into company communication and encouraging their teams to do the same. 

Actionable Step: Consider a “Values Champion” profile in your company newsletter where you profile an associate and an instance where they lived the company values.

  1. Encourage Enforcement: Correcting behaviors that do not live up to values needs to not come exclusively from the executive team and Human Resources but from all employees. Give permission and encourage everyone to not just live the values themselves but to correct anyone, including leadership (without fear of retribution), that are falling short. 

Actionable Step: Make values part of ongoing training including interrupting behaviors and having a path for reporting actions that are out of alignment.

  1. Path to Success: Hire, promote and fire based on the company values. The fastest way to undermine your work is to put profit over lived values. A sales person who bends your company values in order to close the deal – especially if they are actively encouraged to do so – is the fastest way to undermining your values driven company

Actionable Step: Codify the value of your values by talking about them in interviews and measure “living company values” as part of the performance review process.

Your company values can’t be like the flamingo slippers your aunt bought for you at Christmas; where you pull them out on occasion to make a statement but don’t use them everyday. Your employees will see through it, chalk it up as so much lip service and find another job where the values loop in closed.

For values to really take root you will need leadership’s commitment to them, create policies and procedures that support them, and encourage and promote those who live them.


Respect Outside provides sexual-misconduct and gender-discrimination prevention trainings to businesses in the outdoor industry. Based in Bend, OR, and founded in 2019 by Gina McClard, J.D. and Jim Miller, RO is the culmination of Gina’s 25+ years as a lawyer/ anti-sexual-violence crusader and Jim’s 30+ years in the outdoors industry. As a team, the two merge their respective expertise to bring about a workplace revolution which ensures equitable treatment for people of all genders.