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Instill Values for Your Team
by Dick Cochran

Values are our beliefs and principles that we use to guide our decisions and actions on a daily basis. Wouldn’t it be great if our team shared the same values? After all shared values are what gets your team through the tough times on the project and keeps the team working well together. Team values and behaviors are also the tool that lets you get those difficult team members back on track. Here is a simple approach for establishing three or four key values for your team. 

Since values are developed from our individual life experiences each member of your team has a different definition of a value and a different priority or ranking. How do we get a common definition so that we can have a common expectation of behavior?

The easiest approach is to build a “Straw Man” of three or four key values that you believe will improve the performance of the team. Let the team edit and modify them. This process creates buy-in. Then have the team agree to use this definition throughout the project. Since most organizations publish some statement of core values or mission statement, start there. Also, because your team members work for the organization they have implicitly agreed to them.

The secret is to write the value definition in behavioral terms. How do we see it in action? What behaviors to we see that violate the value. Don’t get hung up trying to get “the right“definition. You and the team are defining it for your specific situation and project. Let me illustrate with a definition of Honesty.


  • Being truthful.
  •  Admitting to your actions.
  •  Letting the team know ahead of time of problems or missing deadlines.
  •  Really consider another person’s idea or point of view. Not rejecting it out of hand.
  • We don’t want brutal honesty that’s hurtful.  Things like I think you are stupid or that shirt is ugly.
  • Honesty is being straight forward with all members of the team.

This then is your “Straw Man” definition of Honesty. Present it to the team. Let the team edit it. Agree to live by it on the project. Now you have a tool that will guide behaviors and can also be a basis for asking for correct behaviors when you need to.

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Dick Cochran, is the author of It Needs To Be Done availableon He presents keynotes and seminars on the People Skills that make individuals and team leaders invaluable. Contact Dick at 303-666-4224 or at