Team Values: What Really Matters?

All teams have Values in some form, whether conscious or unconscious. Unfortunately, many teams haven’t articulated and aligned their Values so you never know what kind of behavior will appear. And unless you have done the ‘Values work’, it’s hard to blame other team members for behaviors that may seem out of line. If you don’t determine what’s important to the team, any kind of behavior may show up..

When I worked as a V.P. at PepsiCo, our Leadership Team met monthly. One of the earlier members was the general manager of a an operation in China whom we’ll refer to as “Madame.” She was quite combative and fought hard for her positions, which tended to polarize the group and make it difficult to have reasonable and effective meetings. We had never done the work as a whole team to articulate the team’s Values. From Madame’s perspective, she was operating out of her own sense of Values, standing up for her operation with little regard for the Leadership Team. Had we agreed on and aligned our Values (assuming that Madame had been a part of that process), it would have been easier to point out to her when she was out of line and her behavior would have potentially changed.


Most parents are very clear about the Values they want to impart to their children and willingly talk about it. Values are the most deeply held beliefs that we carry, and our guiding principles are derived from them. Without Values, the direction and education of our children would be rudderless.

When it comes to work, we don’t tend to share our Values with each other; we have our own sense of what’s important, and often we assume that others share some of our basic Values. When coaching executives, I counsel them to share their own Values with their employees who are often relieved to know what is important to the boss and appreciate their sharing. I’ll go as far to say that many team conflicts stem from a clash of Values.

Taken to the next level, the alignment of Team Values is a core principle in High Performance Teams. Values form the glue that holds the team together. They comprise an essential part of the team culture. Once the team creates, shares, and aligns its Values, it becomes a key driver of behavior and the way changes are implemented.

DO YOU OWN YOUR TEAM VALUES? Most of us have worked in organizations that have ‘published Values;’ often they are on the wall for all to see. Corporate Values are important, and it’s useful to articulate them and have them visible. However the more powerful Values are those that the team has created together. The very act of creating, aligning, and articulating Values as a Team Results in a sense of ownership. They become something that the team can stand behind and be proud of. Indeed, this collective process of creation can be magical, as it opens the space for the team to shift into a higher gear.

VALUES FORM CULTURE AND UNDERPIN BEHAVIOR Ultimately, people's’ Values form the underpinnings of a culture. That’s why, when I speak to clients who want to strengthen their culture, I invariably suggest working on their collective and aligned Values. ‘Culture’ is essentially the characteristics that distinguish a group of people. It is a larger concept that involves habits, rituals, behaviors, and ways of being and operating. In a strong culture, you know what to expect and can rely on the firm to act in a certain way. Culture also refers to how the team interacts and behaves, and its collective beliefs and Values.

As teams and companies, we need to learn to move quickly to build our culture as people come and go, and organizations change. The fastest and surest way to build team culture is to establish jointly aligned Values with full commitment from team members. HOW TO CHANGE TEAM BEHAVIOR? When teams seek to form or strengthen culture, they are really seeking to identify behaviors that are conducive to an effective team operation. Team members want to know what kind of behaviors they can count on through interactions. Here is a secret: You can’t form lasting change in behavior by focusing on behavior, alone. You may be able to do it initially, but people usually revert to their old patterns of behavior.

Another way to change behavior involves altering the ‘beliefs’ of the individuals. A deeply held ‘belief’ is, in fact, a ‘value.’ So the best way to change behavior is through changing beliefs or Values. Likewise, in order to extract consistent and desired behavior from team members, it is important to align their collective Team Values with their beliefs.

Looking at it another way, Team Values are what we collectively believe are important, and team behavior is how we demonstrate our Values. Changing only a team’s Values is meaningless unless they connect to actions and behaviors. I always recommend that teams identify and commit to behaviors that reflect their aligned Values. Once the team is clear about its Values and behaviors, the key to bringing the Values to life depends on how we hold each other accountable as team members.

Without consciously articulating the teams Values there will be a lack of alignment around behaviours, making its challenging to become a High Performance Team. A high TQ team implies one which has conscious clarity on what’s important to it and how hall members show up for each other.

Douglas Gerber is Founder and CEO of Focus One, a consulting firm that helps leaders create High Performance Teams. After 23 years as a corporate executive, he developed a reputation for building successful teams. Later, as a consultant, he has personally worked with leaders from over 70 companies to develop their own winning Teams. Drawing from his own extensive background and 10 years of research, Douglas innovated the concept of “Team Quotient” (TQ). He is a thought leader in the area of team transformation. Learn more about Douglas and his upcoming book Team Quotient: How to Build High Performance Leadership Teams that Win Every Time on

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