Core Value #2: Creating a Productive Work Environment
From the start of forming the Atmosphere community, we knew having written-down core values was important, so we emphasized the common core values that are at the heart of the coworking movement. Instead of writing unique values for our organization specifically, we took these generic values as our own. While the coworking concept is a fairly new one, the values that shape coworking businesses make sense intuitively: Collaboration, Openness, Community, Accessibility & Sustainability.
While these are all fine aspirational values to guide our business, none are descriptive enough to resonate as *the actual values* we have at Atmosphere. They are only platitudes, applicable not only to coworking, but potentially to many companies across many industries. While these core values may work as aspirational guideposts, they lack any direct guidance in making key decisions or the specific direction to take here at Atmosphere. Core values shouldn't be just “marketing speak”, but should describe your team's current style of communication and decision making.
The ambiguous nature of these coworking core values aren't just an isolated incident either. Many companies roll out core values that are generic, aspirational marketing speak used by most companies in their industry. Many times, companies will browse “About” pages of their competitors websites and just copy and paste a bit, borrowing generic (and frankly, quite lame) business jargon. Nothing wrong with that, right?
This couldn’t be further from the point of having core values. To be truly effective, values should specifically describe the best of your team's current culture and decision making. Great company core values are made up of 5 essential elements. When considering values for your team, make sure they are: Authentic, Actionable, Applicable, Unique & Memorable.
For a value to ring true, it should be descriptive of your current environment. If, as a leader, you say one thing but do (or are willing to accept others doing) another, it becomes obvious that this value is not authentic or ingrained. Values aren't goals that strive to entirely change the way things are done, but are building blocks that showcase the best of your current behavior, so they must be thoroughly grounded in reality. When it's not real, you and your team will know it and your stated values can even become counterproductive.
Values should actively influence your team's decision making. With the inherent ambiguity of a term like “community” or “collaboration”, there is little information on how that value should be specifically applied. To improve upon vague values, draw a line in the sand, rewrite your values, get specific in the language used, and make the ambiguous terms truly actionable. With clarified values, team members facing tough decisions will *act* in a way that is true to the constraints of your given values, rather than having to guess.
As your company grows, maintaining values that apply to all your employees can become a challenge. Values should be broad enough to apply to the whole team while still catering to the challenges specific to your company. Keep in mind that values can and should change as your team changes.
Dig deep to find both the context and tone that fits the personality of you and your team's leadership. Your values should not be transferable to another company but should reflect your own voice. These values are a way to differentiate how you work that's different from the competition. Making these unique to your company will help you stand out not only with recruitment and retention, but your target customers will want to identify with your unique sensibilities.
Keep the list to five or less. Don't try to get too cute with them (see authentic) but still have fun with them and make them stand out. In a language that everyone can easily understand, distill your big concepts down so they will hit home with your team. Parroting the phrases already effectively being used by your team can help make your values more memorable.
Atmosphere Cultural Style
Team culture can be broken into eight major cultural styles. While it sounds nice to be all things to all people, effective teams must maintain focus on a few key indicators. The best cultures typically will align with only two or three cultural styles. At Atmosphere, we concentrate on developing a culture that is both caring and purposeful. So our core values reflect how members are already showcasing these styles. While some coworking offices try to blend all the best aspects of an office, house, meditation center and bar, at Atmosphere, we've found that we're uniquely suited to our members concentrating on our work and inspiring others to do the same.
And with that, we present our 2nd of five core values:
WE BELIEVE IN CREATING A PRODUCTIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT
We are all here to work. We want to maintain a positive, focused work energy. We can and do feed off the energy of others in this space. We believe in being engaged in our work while not a distraction for others.
Whether your team knows exactly who they are and what they’re about, or you’re in the middle of a team culture sandstorm, we believe all teams could benefit from a “core values tuneup”. So, take a look at your company’s core values. If they’re not written down anywhere yet, go ahead and take a stab at writing 3-5 solid values that meet the attributes listed above. If they are written, flip through them and assess how well they are accomplishing the essential elements of core values discussed here. And then, don’t be afraid to refresh things a bit. This may be the culture boost you didn’t even know your team needed.