How Team Onboarding Reframed Our Values

Sep 25, 2023 | About L2L, Leadership, Relationships, Team Onboarding, Values

This is the third article in our series on team onboarding, a practice at Leverage to Lead where we go beyond traditional onboarding and decide to evolve as a team, together, when a new colleague joins us. Read about the origins of team onboarding here, and read about the most uncomfortable parts of team onboarding here.

We Thought We Had Values

At Leverage to Lead, we always try to be our own proof of concept–we practice with our team what we bring to clients. 

This includes working agreements, supportive structures, stability, meeting protocols, values, and commitments. But once we started team onboarding, we soon realized how much had to evolve. 

What came to light first was that team onboarding was a way to not just state, but embrace and live our company values. Jennifer describes the realization this way:

“I had expectations and others had expectations, but we weren’t talking about them. We weren’t sharing our expectations. I assumed people would just get it by working here, and that was absolutely not true.” 

We learned that so much of team onboarding involves helping each other understand our values by sharing how everyone sees them, what resonates and what we’re resisting, what we’re living out, and what is currently aspirational.

Examining and Excavating

With the help of an outside consultant, we did a values excavation in 2021. The process was painful. We were trying to disrupt the ways we’d been used to working, to come to work with everything we’d been taught to leave behind, and to grieve how long our whole selves have not been welcomed at work. And we were discovering our conflicting perspectives and expectations. 

That year, we created a set of values and commitments based on the idea of saying “Yes, and” to one another. The term comes from improvisational comedy, and it means that in order for a skit to be successful, each actor has to say, “Yes, and” to the others–to accept the reality someone was building and contribute to it, grow it, expand it. That conception of co-creation resonated deeply with us. 

So, our values in 2021 included:

  • Deep regard for one another, and holding our sameness and differences
  • Perseverance, to keep showing up and doing the work together
  • Collaboration, to create something new together
  • Communication, to listen deeply and trust that we will be heard

We committed to:

  • Psychological safety
  • Vulnerability
  • A shared purpose
  • Creativity
  • Integrity
  • Trust

Our Values Evolution

This year, we reexamined our values again, with the intent of evolving them to fit our team’s growth. We thought we might give them an update, but mostly felt confident that they were serving us well. 

We began by reflecting on the values and commitments from 2021. How did they feel? What still resonated? What felt outgrown or less relevant? 

It turns out that we had changed a lot and we needed our values to reflect that change. In the end, we revised them substantially. 

The process took multiple conversations and several months. We talked about behaviors we noticed on the team and drew out the values those behaviors reflected. We came up with a set of more clearly articulated and aligned values and commitments–plus a new mission statement, vision statement, and leadership commitment. 

Today, our values include:

  • Relationship Building
  • Co-Creation
  • Collaboration

And our list of commitments has grown. We can now more clearly identify the behaviors that support our values, including:

  • Vulnerability
  • Boundaries
  • Inner agility
  • Deep regard
  • Compassion
  • Agency
  • Perseverance
  • Communication
  • Disruption of urgency
  • Curiosity
  • Integrity
  • Trust
  • Risk-taking
  • Shared purpose
  • Imagination
  • Rest

It Gets Easier

To everyone’s relief, the evolution of these values was far easier. We had been through the process once before, we were more practiced in vulnerability together, and we had been talking about our values regularly since our first excavation. 

We’ll continue making our values a regular part of our meetings, reflections, and performance reviews. The more we talk about them, the clearer we are in our decision-making, the deeper our team relationships, and the better we can serve our clients.

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