A couple years ago, we worked on a series of exercises to reveal our six values. Then we implemented them in the standard ways: we wrote a blog post. We popped them in our playbook. We talked about them during onboarding. Otherwise, they came up here and there.

Solid work. But values are most effective when they’re used for more than just a few checkpoints — when they’re talked about and reinforced every single day, and embedded into the work itself. And it’s much easier to do that when they’re as memorable as possible. As silly as it sounds, that can be hard when there are 6.

“Do fewer things better,” as the old startup mantra goes.

We came into the year anticipating pretty explosive growth — but growth for growth’s sake has never been our goal. We want to grow into a different and better company, not just a bigger one. We hope to embrace what brings us together, while not just clinging to what worked in the past. That’s hard. It requires intention.

So one of the first things we did in 2018 was bring our values down from 6 to 3. Then, we embarked on a series of small but meaningful initiatives to embed them into how we work.

First, here are the new, refined values:

1/ Build something.

We are here to create things. Too many environments and jobs deprive us of the ability to create. Clique is different. We have a heavy bias towards action, feel a sense of accomplishment regularly, and care deeply about the quality of what we put out in the world.

We want to build something that can last. When faced with a choice of getting bigger or getting better, we choose to get better. Instead of short-term growth strategies, we invest in things that can be permanent: ourselves, our work, and our relationships with clients.

2/ Be a student and a teacher.

There is no such thing as “self-taught.” Directly or indirectly, everyone learns from someone. Recognizing that reality, we resolve to be the best at getting better. Technology, after all, is the most rapidly evolving industry in the world. To stay on top of it, we are committed to learning and improving, and building it into what we do — not as an “add on,” but as part of our daily work. We recognize that any minute spent teaching one another will pay itself off tenfold.

3/ Make somebody’s job easier.

When faced with a challenge, we shouldn’t ask how quickly we can hand this off to a colleague or client — we should ask if we’re going out of our way to be a helpful, inspirational, inclusive teammate—and helping unlock the best work in others. We aim to create a virtuous cycle where we all work to make somebody’s day better and our days are better as a result.

That’s it. Easier to remember, eh?

Okay, but how did you implement them?

This is the part that’s missing from most companies’ relationships with values. OK, you wrote them on the wall, but what are you actually doing to carry them out?

Here’s what we’ve done so far, which has been a good start.

1/ They’re still in job postings…

2/ They’re mentioned and discussed throughout the interview process…

3/ They’re in job offers…

4/ They are still a big part of onboarding, with every new hire having a personal meeting with each partner focused on values…

5/ Every First Friday, we do shoutouts — a simple, anonymous way of recognizing each other’s hard work. They’re values-themed…

6/ And probably most importantly, our values are actually the agenda for our performance reviews. It’s one thing to say you value things like teaching and learning; it’s another to actually evaluate performance based upon those factors. Here’s how we do it:

 

Build something

  1. Work quality: the quality of the work itself
  2. Entrepreneurialism: ability to take ownership and execute, even in uncertain environments
  3. “Take out the trash”: when you see something that needs to be done to make Clique better, no matter how big or small, do you do it? [you don’t have to take this literally]

 

Be a student and a teacher

  1. Learning: specific, tangible examples of personal growth
  2. Teaching: demonstration of teaching others, whether in explicit ways (Clique U sessions, writing, sharing what you know with the wider community) or in the day-to-day (helping colleagues, answering questions on Slack). This is different for everyone, and that’s fine. Just look for ways to share your knowledge.

 

Make somebody’s job easier

  1. Encouraging, inspirational, helpful teammate: have you helped unlock the best work in others by helping inspire and motivate them with a positive attitude? Do you pitch in when they need help?
  2. Being open and inclusive: do you show openness to new ideas, feedback, questions, challenges, people, perspectives?
  3. Dependable: have you worked towards clear deadlines, and communicated well when things change?

As with everything, it’s a work in progress. To steal terminology from teachers, we try to have a growth mindset instead of a proficiency mindset. The goal is simply to keep an open mind and get better.

This has helped, big time. Speaking for myself personally, it’s been “centering.” Having three values has enabled us to double-down on what makes us a little different, while maintaining the freedom to evolve and change. As any growing company will tell you, that’s harder than it looks. But worth it.