Finding Your Core Values

Brains on Fire Lesson #14,313: We’re in the people business. From insight to execution, the work we do starts and ends with a human-centric approach.

The same goes for our internal affairs. We really care about our people. Often described as an “island of misfit toys,” our people are the magic that brings this whole idea that is “Brains on Fire” to life. The culture of our organization lives and breathes through the connections of our team. Like any small, scrappy unit – when our team is stronger, our work is stronger. Period.  A strong team has empathy and understanding for each other’s similarities and differences, and can work together better being aware of one another’s strengths and weaknesses.

Easier said than done, right?  Mutual understanding doesn’t just happen; you have to create intentional time and space for these connections to be birthed. Depending on where your company’s culture lies, it can be hard to figure out where to even start.  

Enter: this post. Right now. Making it easier for you. This super simple exercise is seriously painless and sure to bring you at least an inch closer together as an organization. We’re going to get your team to define and explain their top three core values.

What do we mean by “values”? The things your individual team members intrinsically believe in. Their deepest priorities. The standards by which they determine if they’re living their lives the way they want to. The measures by which they gauge their successes and failures.  





Why this exercise works:

  1. It gives employees a time to focus on themselves. Not on your business, not on your clients, but on their own internal landscapes. This is inherently enriching.
  2. It’s self guided, meaning it involves no weird skits, dance moves, or any actions of the awkward-ice-breaker variety. It also takes less than an hour.
  3. It builds empathy. By completing the exercise together, you gain deeper insight into how and why you and your team react to the world.

On the front, the activity. On the back, a big list of values. Start by circling every value on the list that resonates in your gut. Then you knock it down to your top seven. Then your top three, by priority. After that, fill out a success statement for each of your top three values. This will help you really define what it means to live that value in action and practice.

For example: To succeed at creativity means I am wide-eyed, resilient, and full of possibility.  




The last step is to share your statements with the team. It’s amazing what you will learn and where you will (or won’t) find overlap. There may be some surprises, but in general there tends to be more of an, “Ooooh, of COURSE,” after each person stands up and shares their values.

Now that I know each of my teammate’s values, I can’t help but picture each set as house sigils, flying high over the houses of their hearts. Yeah, it’s cheesy, but it’s also delightful and iconic. It helps me remember to consider our deepest motivators as we move together through the journey that is working in this industry.

We decided to take our values and assemble a word cloud. Our highest overlaps (empathy, family, and purpose) are two of Brains on Fire’s biggest values as an organization. How’s that for teamwork?

Want to put values to work for your team? Download the worksheet for free here.

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