Shared values are the foundation of any organization’s culture; in fact they are the glue that holds organizations together. Shared values guide us to select and achieve common goals.
Zappos.com, headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada, is a great example of how shared values underpin corporate culture. If you haven’t heard about Zappos, it is an online retailer – they sell shoes. Like many start-ups, Zappos’ culture developed in that formative stage where a few people spent a lot of time together. Unlike many companies, leaders at Zappos were intentional about the kind of culture they wanted. In fact, in 2004 the CEO Tony Hsieh sent an email to all employees asking what people liked about the culture. The responses were distilled into 10 Core values that are visible all over the corporate headquarters. They are:
- Deliver WOW Through Service
- Embrace and Drive Change
- Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
- Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
- Pursue Growth and Learning
- Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
- Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
- Do More With Less
- Be Passionate and Determined
- Be Humble
Zappo’s is so focused in company culture that the Tony Hsieh wrote a book on how he and other leaders guided the development of the culture, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. Hsieh describes how he approaches building, and sustaining a great culture at Zappos. But the book that might be even more important to Zappos employees is the book they write about their culture. Every year, the company publishes the Zappos Culture Book, a compilation of pictures from the year and unscripted comments from employees. Here are some examples from the 2011 edition:
The Zappos Culture is being able to have a desk that looks like the Hello Kitty section of the Sanrio store without people thinking you are weird. – Jessica C.
With everyone empowered to bring forth their own ideas. Exude their different personalities and inspire others with their passions, the Zappos culture grows stronger as we grow as individuals, and a the company grows as a whole. – Derek C.
Zappos is like my second home. It’s a place where I can be myself and a place where I can have fun and work at the same time. – Linda H.
I went to Zappos on a public tour in April of 2013. Here is a quick peak at what you see on the tour.
When the people at Zappos talk about being “a little weird” they are talking about an environment that gives them the space to be themselves. That value certainly comes through in the comments in the Culture Book. You can also observe this shared value when you walk the call center and see the how individuals have decorated their workspace. Finally, you hear it when you interact with employee sand they express how happy they are to be themselves and be appreciated for their individuality. This shared value guides how the people of this organization interact. It guides how they make decisions.
Do you have examples of how shared values hold together a company’s culture? I’d love to hear about them!
- Does your startup have a company culture? Should It? (nibletz.com)
- The Future Of Work: Amazon vs. Zappos (techcrunch.com)
- Zappos’ culture coach: how ‘squishy’ stuff like culture took us to a billion dollars in revenue | VentureBeat (venturebeat.com)