At UGURUS, we practice the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (or EOS for short). This system has helped my team and myself operate our business with discipline. One of the habits our EOS® Implementer has helped me adapt and internalize is writing and delivering a quarterly Core Values Speech.
Prior to EOS®, we had core values defined, and they sat in a document collecting dust just like the periodic business plans we would cram together and do nothing with. All these entrepreneurs, consultants, and books kept telling me the same thing, “DEFINE YOUR CORE VALUES!!!”
And then what?
We finally got a roadmap for doing all of the great things core values can do for your business with Gino’s system. We could use them when:
And so on.
After we defined and updated our core values about four years ago, our EOS® Implementer, Bobi Siembieda, asked me to deliver a speech to my team that highlighted and explained our core values during the all-hands quarterly offsite with our team. Not only that, but she said that I would be doing this each and every quarter to rally the team. I didn’t even know where to start, so she pointed me to the section in Traction that explained this activity:
“The next step in the process is to communicate these core values to the rest of the organization. It’s time to create your presentation speech. People won’t necessarily understand what you mean if you merely state each core value. That’s why each one needs to be backed up with stories, analogies, and creative illustrations to drive home its importance.”
Wickman, G. (2011). Traction. Dallas, TX: BenBella.
So in May of 2014, I delivered my first speech to my team. We did our first quarterly team offsite presentation of our business plan and at the finale, I stood up and read the words to our team. I was a bit nervous and felt awkward, but it debuted a specific language around what we valued as a company with specific examples and explanations.
Prior to this, we had core values defined, but they were just a few words listed on a document and shared. Never explained.
Every 90-days following this unveiling, we have built repetition with our core values with a new speech each quarter. I’ve since delivered a version of this speech 16 times.
Core Values Speech Example
If you’ve been instructed to implement a core values speech in your team or see that it could be valuable to instill your company’s core values into your team, I want to help you.
First, here is my most recent core values speech in a written and audio form:
This speech is delivered at our team all-hands rollout of our quarterly plan. Steve and I meet offsite for a full day of strategic thinking around our business with Bobi. Following this meeting, we have a day to distill our plan, update docs, and then that evening is usually when I sit down and write the updated values speech. The following day is when we do our team all-hands. For the past few years, this all-hands meeting is a lengthy 3 to 4-hour team breakfast at the Four Seasons in Denver.
We spend the first hour or so hanging out, eating breakfast, and chatting. After eating, we dig into our docs. We start with a retrospective on the last quarter on how we did. We share an updated 12-week rolling scorecard, numbers for the quarter, and how we did on big priorities – or Rocks. From there we dig into our plan moving forward. We review our VTO™, Accountability Chart, and Rocks.
Once we’ve unveiled our plan, we solicit feedback and insight from each member of our team. We aren’t debating the plan, just making sure everyone has an opportunity to be heard and ensure they understand what leadership wants to see out of the business over the next quarter.
At the very end, I stand up in front of everyone and read the speech.
Why The Core Values Speech is Important
I’ve learned that the core values speech is a keystone medium to deliver and reinforce your business’s core values. It’s not the only medium – you should also figure out how to reward and reinforce values during the day to day operations – but it provides a platform to unpack your values. Here are three benefits I’ve found:
- Defines Core Values
It’s one thing to say we value Being Bold and Taking Risks, but it’s another to explain what that means. Does it simply mean that the business takes risks with new ventures, or does it mean that an employee holds that value when they are communicating feedback to leadership within the business? Your core values speech should unpack each and every core value, provide examples, analogies, and stories to bring them to life. Just like words have definitions and multiple meanings, so do your core values.
- Reiterates Core Values
It can take seven times to hear something before you hear it the first time. Repetition is the secret to mastering your business. Repeating your core values consistently helps to make sure they are actually used. And each time you emphasize your core values through your values speech, you’ll be at a different place in your business. They’ll mean different things at different times. So repetition not only helps their adoption and use in your business, but also deepens your own understanding of your core values.
- Reflection and Introspection
Sitting down to write my speech each quarter gives me an opportunity to think about what has happened in my business and life and apply meaning. Doing this in the context of my company’s core values helps me to gain insights. Connecting what has happened and what we plan to do to our core values is an enlightening exercise for myself. And then sharing these insights with the team is one more opportunity to build a shared vision for the business.
How to Craft Your Core Values Speech
There really is no right or wrong way to write your speech. There is an example in the book Traction which is where I started. That being said, I think the only real requirement is to include all of your core values and elaborate on them. From there, it’s really a blank canvas for your creativity.
- Start with your core values.
I first wrote a paragraph or two about each of our core values. This serves as the base of my speech and has varied just a bit since we started doing a speech each quarter. The biggest change in this part of my speech has been when we’ve changed our values during our leadership planning time.
- Add an example or story from the last 90-days for each value.
I give one or two short examples from team members each quarter for each value. This gives me an opportunity to publicly recognize someone in our team living the values. These stories are not actually in the published memo from above. Most of the time, I just write in some hand notes on this section or will type shorthand for who I want to recognize on my speech doc. I’ll write something like “Dianna > Johnny T > $16k win after strat call” under my Help First value. These notes would tell me that Dianna helped a customer named Johnny T sell a $16,000 project following her strategy call – which is a free intro call we do for our programs. That is a headline-worthy event as it shows that she wasn’t just selling, but helping the customer prior to an enrollment.
- Add an introduction story.
This is where I get a bit creative. I’ll start with a theme, event, ah ha, or idea and tell a story to start off my speech. Usually, it’s a page or two written. One of my favorite things to do in these stories is bringing in customer testimonials, videos, and emails to make them come to life. Let’s say we just launched a new program – I might include an email from a customer letting us know how much this program changed their life.
- Tie in your purpose and/or BHAG.
Besides your core values, the values speech is a great way to talk about your business mission. Let your team know that the values and stories are relevant for your journey to accomplish your BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) and living the purpose of your business.
- Practice reading it aloud.
At first, I thought I would need to practice and memorize this speech. This stressed me out like crazy. There is a lot of work happening in the calendar quarter for me in my business – and adding one more thing was not something I was excited about. My focus is on writing a good speech. Then print it out and have it handy when it comes time to wrap our quarterly. If possible, give it a couple good practice reads to catch any language that sounds funky in spoken word as well as grammar. I usually find that I make a few changes after I speak it out loud.
Once you have your speech written, you’re 95% of the way there. That last five percent is actually reading it to your team, which is where you might have butterflies. But it’s where all the reward is!
You’ll likely feel a bit awkward. That’s ok. Your team is looking to you to be a leader, and giving this talk every quarter is a way to inspire them to follow you on your mission.
Not Sure if a Core Values Speech is Right For You?
The last thing I want to talk about is some what if’s that might have you considering whether doing this activity is right for your business.
What if I have a small team?
Our UGURUS team is small. We’ve varied in size from four to about ten core team members over the last four years. I think I would deliver this speech as long as there was at least one other individual in my company. I feel a little strange when standing up at the end of a conference table with just a couple of people listening to my speech, but it’s great practice and the value is still there. As long as there are other people in your business that you need to rally around a common set of values, I think it makes sense.
What if I don’t have a team?
I have not personally been in this situation for over twelve years, but I do coach and mentor many without teams. If you don’t have a team, my recommendation would be to still do this exercise, but more as an introspective to solidify what you value and to tell a story about where you’ve been and plan to head. You could consider publishing it to your customers as a way to talk about what you value every quarter.
What if my team is virtual?
You need to do this more than those working locally in an office. Being remote means that people have less contact with one another, so being explicit in your core values and driving repetition around them is paramount. When folks are around each other day in day out, they tend to rub off on each other. When teams are remote and have less contact, it’s so important to make sure everyone is rowing in the same direction and sharing the same values when interacting with customers. Spin up a Zoom room. Record audio or video. Do whatever you can to get each team member to read, listen, or watch your delivery every quarter.
Should I share my speech externally?
That is up to you. After four years, we just decided that we would share our core values speech moving forward publicly as a memo. This gives us an opportunity to talk about what we value as a business with our customers and potential customers. The above memos are not the raw speech I gave my team. They are close to it – but I did spend about an hour making modifications so that it would be relevant to the general public. I think as long as you are talking about things that you think are important and key drivers for your business, I don’t see any reason not to.
Core Values Are Not Commandments
My final word on core values is on their fluidity. For the most part, over the past four years, our core values have remained constant. But they have changed. I was just looking back at my very first speech and most of the phrases that we used to communicate our core values were different than they are today. However, the underlying “value” is pretty close.
If you are hesitant to do this exercise because you’re not 100% confident in the core values you’ve set for your business, I encourage you to give it a try. You’ll likely find that this exercise will help you get more clear. By thinking of stories, bringing examples, finding analogies of things you value in your business, you’ll start to gain clarity on what you value. What other’s on your team value.
And that’s the whole point.
Create a common language around how you want folks to behave, who you want on your team, who you want as a customer, and who you don’t want around.
Core values can be a powerful tool to grow and scale your business. They are also a way for you to do more of what you love doing which is really what it’s all about.
If you have any questions about writing your own core values speech, let me know in the comments below.
Until next time.