Empowered Work
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Empowered Work

How to create company values people actually use

I’ve been a part of companies that had great values, and I’ve been a part of others where the values were lackluster. For the former, values were often cited in meetings, brought up when making critical business decisions, and easily recited by staff on the spot. For the latter, the values lived on a buried wiki page or a lost document, and they were only referenced by company leaders in rare situations.

Having experienced for myself the profound impact meaningful values can have on teams, I jumped at the opportunity to work with the staff at LIV, a mixed reality start-up focusing on immersive gaming experiences, to craft new values that would define the group’s ways of working moving forward. Before breaking down the new LIV values, I’d first like to talk about why values matter and our process for creating them this time around.

The traits of great values

So, why do company values matter? First and foremost, company values are a great way to quickly share the most important aspects of your culture with new and potential team members. Values can be inspirational, and they can serve as a north star for where your ship is heading and how you plan to get there.

On top of that, the best company values are ones that help team members make decisions. As a company scales, you won’t be able to be a part of every meeting or have a voice in every conversation. Values help to communicate to team members what to prioritize and why.

Lastly, values are all about trade-offs. With your limited time and resources, you’ll need to decide what you want to be really great at, and then — on the flip side — what you’re willing to sacrifice to achieve that greatness. In certain circumstances, you may be able to have your cake and eat it, too, but it’s likely that you’ll need to face trade-offs at some point during your company’s growth. Values help with that.

The creation process

When creating the new LIV values, we considered feedback from two separate groups: the leadership team and LIV staff as a whole. The leadership team contributed their thoughts on strategy, prioritization, and company history, while staff shared their thoughts on what made LIV a unique and enjoyable place to work.

LIV team members were given questions in advance to think on, and then we discussed the topics in two, hour-long virtual roundtables. The questions posed to staff included:

  • What’s the #1 thing you love about working here?
  • How is our company different from other places you’ve worked at or heard about?
  • Why do you think we’ve succeeded in our industry?
  • Where do we most often experience frustrations or slowdowns?
  • What could we use more of?

You’ll notice that not all of the questions focused on the positive aspects of the company’s culture and ways of working. That’s because talking about the things we need to improve upon is just as important as talking about what we’re already great at. Depending on your roundtable’s level of psychological safety, you may or may not get constructive feedback when asking more tough questions. Hand-selecting roundtable attendees may help with this (by grouping familiar team members together, for example), in addition to you yourself offering up a few points of constructive feedback (either from your own experiences or from previous roundtables). I’ve found that once you break the ice, people are more comfortable giving constructive feedback in a roundtable setting. Many folks just don’t want to be the first person to chime in!

During each of the roundtables, I took detailed notes on the feedback provided by staff. I didn’t include names or specifics around a person’s feedback. After collecting the notes from the roundtables, I began to identify themes. Between the two groups, which aspects of our company’s culture were brought up most often?

After identifying a dozen or so themes, they were then shared with all LIV staff and leadership. From the very beginning of the value creation process, we adhered to transparent and consistent communication. Team members were able to feel a sense of ownership and belonging, which resulted in nearly 100% participation in the roundtables. After discussing the themes with staff, it was time to find the overlaps between the themes and the company priorities previously identified by leadership.

Using the themes and priorities, an initial version of LIV values were presented to staff about two weeks after the roundtables. They are now displayed on our internal wiki, referenced in our daily operations, and used to help shape our work moving forward.

LIV Values

These are the values that our team at LIV decided to adopt. Each includes practical examples of how it can be used for decision-making day-to-day and potential trade-offs. I’ll also dive into a few details about each.

At LIV, we recognize that we are all humans, each with our own strengths and weaknesses. We prioritize inclusion to ensure everyone is able to express themselves.

We practice this value by:

  • Expressing gratitude to one another often
  • Taking risks and understanding that mistakes help us grow
  • Striving for a team made up of diverse people and perspectives
  • Encouraging self-care and taking time for ourselves when we need it
  • Leaving our egos at the door
  • Making space for fun

Examples from the metaverse:

  • Thanking someone during All Hands for helping you solve a problem
  • Speaking openly about a mistake you made and what you learned from it
  • Sharing your opinion when others may disagree with your perspective
  • Taking a mental health day
  • Putting time on the calendar to play games with your team

By prioritizing self-care and other aspects of our “Real Humans” value, we may sometimes miss target dates because we need to prevent burnout. We may have lower productivity if we decide to play games with one another on a Friday afternoon. We may have to exit our comfort zone in order to vocally disagree with a decision made by leadership.

“We’re actually treated like humans” was a quote from one of the roundtables with staff. Compared to other teams and companies I’ve worked with, LIV staff members are some of the most forthcoming when sharing their thoughts and feelings. It’s not uncommon for someone to share when they’re having a rough day, and a good portion of our company All Hands is dedicated to expressing gratitude to one another. The leadership team at the company cares deeply about inclusivity, and they take the time to build meaningful bonds with people on their teams.

Additionally, making space for diverse people and perspectives was one of the drivers for revamping the LIV values in the first place. LIV staff meets monthly to discuss Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) at the company, and we make a commitment each meeting to find areas we can improve on at LIV. In our October D&I meeting, we wanted a way to communicate to all staff that diversity is always something we should be thinking about (with our hiring, with our products, with our marketing, etc). We decided a value would be the best way to do that!

Above all else, LIV serves creators. We help creators share their immersive gaming experiences and connect with their fans in meaningful ways.

We practice this value by:

  • Striving to prioritize creator value over profit or partnerships
  • Learning from our creators and incorporating their feedback
  • Maintaining a thriving, close-knit relationship with our community
  • Speaking authentically to creators and external parties

Examples from the metaverse:

  • Declining or renegotiating a partnership opportunity that would negatively impact creators
  • Reading user interviews to better understand how creators think
  • Interacting with our community on Discord or social media
  • Speaking to creators casually, like you would a friend

As mentioned in the first bullet point in the section above, we may sometimes decline or renegotiate opportunities that don’t provide meaningful value to creators.

This is a common value among companies that serve content creators, and for good reason. At LIV, streamers and video creators are the primary users of our mixed reality capture technology and other tools. As long as we’re able to continue providing value to this group, we know we’re on the right track.

This value is also one that’s easy to stray away from. Whether it’s driven by growth, revenue, or compliance, there may be times where your “Creators First” value doesn’t always pan out. (It happens, and that’s okay. “Real Humans,” after all.) It’s best to keep these instances to a minimum, but if you do find yourself straying away from this value, transparent communication with staff is the best path forward. Own the decision, discuss the “why,” and answer questions honestly. The worst move would be to not acknowledge the stray away from your company values or — even worse — to try and spin the situation as a positive. Be authentic and open with staff, and know that you will reduce their trust in you if you can’t adhere to your own commitments.

We are a remote-first team, and — even though we can’t be everywhere and see everything at once — we can do our best to keep our teammates informed by communicating proactively and encouraging transparency.

We practice this value by:

  • Encouraging asynchronous communication (email, documentation)
  • Speaking to one another honestly and providing constructive feedback
  • Keeping company information transparent for staff (including compensation)
  • Sharing information proactively about our individual (and limited) FOV
  • Welcoming questions from others about our individual FOVs

Examples from the metaverse:

  • Posting a message in Discord and updating internal documentation after fixing a particularly sneaky bug
  • Letting a teammate know that you would appreciate more lead time when they request changes to your work
  • Making sure teammates (especially those in other time zones) know how your work is going and where you left off for the day
  • Taking notes during a meeting so those that couldn’t attend can stay informed
  • Taking the time to explain your work when a teammate wants to better understand what you’re doing

Being a remote-first company means decision-making and overall collaboration may be slower. There may be hand-offs between time zones, we may need an extra day to reach an important decision, and we’ll have to lean more into documents and emails (rather than meetings or chat) to share ideas.

Practicing thoughtful, asynchronous communication is important with a distributed team, but this value is about more than just our remote workforce. LIV also has an extreme commitment to transparency, whether that’s with company financials or hiring decisions. Calendars and documents are public to staff, and anyone is empowered to learn more about what a team is working on or provide feedback on a particular project.

When you have such a firm commitment to transparency, there’s no room for company politics. As with any company, mistakes will be made, and we’ll have to course correct every now and then, but the motivations of the leadership team are never in question; they care about building a successful company with people they enjoy working alongside. Sticking to transparency builds trust, improves retention, and allows people to become more invested in our company’s mission.

Though I may be biased, these three company values (Real Humans, Creators First, and 360° FOV) are a great representation of LIV’s culture, what the company prioritizes, and how we’ll work together to achieve success.

How to know if you need new values

If your teams have no idea what your company values are, it may be time to do a roundtable. If your values are generic enough that they could be for any company in your industry, it may be time to rethink them. If you regularly make decisions that aren’t aligned with your company values, it’s time to go back to the drawing board (and you likely need to start repairing trust issues with your staff). And if you, as a real human with your own set of personal values, find that your motivations and priorities aren’t aligned with your company’s goals, it may be time to seek out a new adventure. Speaking from my own experience, working alongside people that share the same values as you is truly a game changer.

Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear about your own company’s values and how you use them day-to-day!

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