In a world where chaos and uncertainty are dominating our lives by the minute, it helps to ground ourselves in fundamentals and core values.
Fundamentals give you tremendous focus and clarity. They cut out all the shiny new things trying to grab at your attention and force you to ask yourself, “what exactly do I need in order to go from Point A to Point B?”
I consider values a type of quality measure, like the kind of tequila you’d add into your margarita. Watermelon margs made with fresh watermelon chunks, 1800 blanco, fresh lime juice, and Cointreau will outperform those made with José Cuervo and Margarita Mix everyday. Similarly, employees that incorporate core values into everything they do will outshine those that just show up to do their jobs everyday.
(Read to the end, and I’ll share my frozen watermelon marg recipe with you)
To prove it, let me tell you about this awesome challenge our team took part in over the course of 2020.
Core Values challenge
Each month, everyone on our team had the opportunity to record examples of how they lived up to each of Sprout’s core values. There are seven core values at Sprout (read more about them here):
- Care Deeply
- Embrace Accountability
- Champion Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
- Promote Open, Authentic Communication
- Seek Simplicity
- Solve Hard Problems
- Celebrate Change
We tracked our examples in a shared spreadsheet, which in itself was a way to hold each other accountable as a team. The spreadsheet was also a great tool to reflect on the progress we made both individually and as a team.
The fact that it was monthly meant actively tracking my activity, and identifying ways to fill in any missing pieces to get all seven filled out each month. Each week, I would reflect on whether anything I did qualified for entry into the tracker. If not, I would jot ideas down onto my to-do list.
How I approached each value
- Care Deeply meant helping someone in need, be it a customer or coworker. This one was easy to accomplish, I’m that kind of guy
- Embrace Accountability meant finding something that I could do better and actually doing it better. This one pushed me to be a better teammate and team player
- Promote Open, Authentic Communication meant allowing yourself to be vulnerable to feedback. I’d find ways to both give and ask for it, but also to look for opportunities to improve how we communicate in today’s asynchronous work environment
- Seek Simplicity and Solve Hard Problems are literally what I do for a living, but I enjoyed actively looking for new ways to combine the two
Not every value tracks directly to my day-to-day work:
- Champion Diversity, Equity & Inclusion is a tricky one for me. I appreciated having to seek out opportunities to champion DEI each month, leaning most of the time into my roles on our Parents BRG and Distributed Team Affinity Group
- Celebrate Change speaks mostly to career growth and recruiting. I am glad I was challenged to get outside my little bubble to network and think about how I want to grow in my own career
Hopefully, you can start to see how tracking values-based activities can make a huge impact on your growth as a professional. Now, imagine the impact your team can have when everyone on it is tracking as well.
Before I tell you how the exercise panned out, I should mention that our “brand” as a team was still very nascent at the start of this year. We were a team of one (me) until late-2018. We offer a lot of one-time services which, for reps who are goaled on generating recurring revenue, is an uphill battle. Our plan for the year was to demonstrate why our team needed to be a fundamental part of how we do business with our customers. We wanted a bigger seat at the table.
The impact of values-based work
Corporate Values can fall into that category of fluffy corporate stuff that gets created by executives in boardrooms and joked about as being out-of-touch with reality. But in the case of Sprout’s values, they were created by the company as a whole, and are used in daily conversation.
I’m being honest about how they’re part of our day-to-day life at Sprout. And because of this, it’s easy to see how leadership would be paying close attention to anyone exemplifying these values in their work.
🤔 Getting the attention and support of our leadership would go a long way toward building our team’s brand wouldn’t it? Of course it would.
But more importantly, the values were created for a reason. Incorporating those seven items above into your day-to-day work and relationships means you’re using premium ingredients. Premium ingredients lead to a better-tasting margarita, er, better employee and company performance.
So sure, embodying our values as a team would help us with our team goal of building our internal brand in front of leadership. But more importantly, using premium ingredients to do our work was a surefire way to grow professionally.
And that is why I absolutely love (and recommend) this challenge.
Reflecting on 2020’s personal and team growth through our values
When I look back on where we started as a team, and where we are now, I’m confident that the team has succeeded in establishing its purpose in the organization. There is still work to do, but we did the hardest part: we got people to see that it’s worth getting us involved.
We did this through countless examples of Caring Deeply, Solving Hard Problems and Promoting Open, Authentic Communication.
Nowadays, our team is regularly referenced by leadership when talking about wins, saves, and we even got a shout-out in a recent earnings call!
- We’re using our credibility and expertise to improve process and communication internally with other teams
- We’re influencing product roadmap
- We’re adding headcount (which we all know doesn’t happen until you prove yourself)
Individually, each of us on the team has stepped up in numerous ways to help each other, our customers, and the company on the whole.
- We have teammates serving as mentors and in leadership roles on cross-functional teams
- We have countless examples of team members stepping in to support tricky customer conversations in ways typically left to people in leadership positions
- We are the de facto experts for a particular part of our platform offering, giving us a chance to drive enablement efforts and even strategic conversations
If you’ve read this far, and still don’t see how an exercise like values tracking can be a meaningful addition to you or your team, let’s talk. I’ll make us margaritas. Otherwise, spin up a spreadsheet and let the coming year be one of tremendous personal and professional growth!
P.S. None of this would be possible without my manager putting it into play to begin with. Thank you, Zach, this is your real cookbook.
And speaking of cookbooks, as promised, here is my frozen watermelon margarita recipe (makes 4 servings):
- 4 cups frozen watermelon chunks
- 4 ounces 1800 Blanco tequila
- 2 ounces of lime juice
- 2 ounces of Gran Marnier, Cointreau, or Triple Sec as a last resort (remember: this blog post is about premium ingredients)
- 1 tsp (ish) agave nectar
To make the watermelon chunks, cut up the watermelon and put the pieces on a cookie sheet. Freeze for a few hours then dump into a freezer bag for later. You can typically get 6-8 batches of margs out of a full watermelon.
Blend the above. Pour. Enjoy.
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