In our passion to help treatment centers thrive and achieve business success, we’d like to share our journey of how we recently redefined our core values as part of our implementation of EOS, and how we believe they help our culture to thrive.
Brian Smith, Avea’s COO, joined Avea a few years ago. At his previous company, he experienced the process of successfully integrating core values as part of their growth strategy, making core values near and dear to Brian’s heart. When Avea made the commitment to adopt the EOS operating system, Brian was excited to lead the Avea team through the first important step: rediscovering our core values.
“Unfortunately, often times core values become like window dressings for companies. They get created, but they don’t stick. They are like a muscle, and if you don’t exercise them, they’ll atrophy. Avea had a little atrophy.”, Brian noticed after joining the Avea team. Using the EOS process as a guide, but with a few twists, here are the steps he took:
Step One: Define the Characteristics and Qualities We Embody
Believing that one of the reasons core values often aren’t adopted is because employees don’t have buy-in, Brian wanted to try a different approach and involve the whole company in the process. He suggested “Let’s crowd-source these. Let’s let the team have a say in the rules that we decide we all want to live by, rather than have them handed down by a leadership team.”
Aside from creating core values, one of the key elements in the EOS VISION component is making sure your company is aligned on their mission and has a unified vision of the company’s purpose. Brian had confidence the crowd sourcing method was the right approach because he knew the Avea team was aligned on our core focus and mission: To take the nonsense out of billing and the financial aspects of running a treatment center, so providers can focus on taking care of their patients. And in that spirit, during the all-company meeting as the Avea team brainstormed and shared their experiences in working with treatment centers, Brian focused on digging in to the meanings behind stories told, to gain deeper understandings and get to the core impact. This was another vital step in avoiding what sometimes creates a lack of buy-in – settling on generic words that ultimately prove meaningless and don’t uphold a business’s core focus.
Step Two: Narrow Down and Fine Tune
The next step in the process involved whittling the list down by categorizing, removing redundancy and overlap, and capturing the sentiments so that at the next company meeting, everyone could vote on the top five. From there, each value was refined with new language and the goal of making it brief, meaningful, and memorable. For example, ‘accountability’ became ‘Do the Right Thing” and ‘empathy’ became ‘Solve with Empathy’, bringing an active element to each. Brief declarative value statements were also crafted to bring them to life, so as to provide clarity and guidance.
Step Three: Make Them Meaningful
During the following offsite leadership team meeting, they were put to the test. Ben Dittman, CEO of Avea, shared the experience: “We had very vulnerable conversations about past experiences where we might have applied our core values, along with deep discussions about how they affect us, our employees, our clients, and ultimately their patients. Most importantly, we talked about how to embrace them in our learning, our service and our ethics in the work we do in the treatment industry.”
Gino Wickman, founder of EOS, stresses in his book Traction that establishing core values can be a tipping point for companies, because it clarifies the culture. This held true for Avea. Upon returning from the their offsite, the leadership team was in complete alignment and noticeably in sync with a vision and their purpose. “Something was different. Our leaders seemed more cohesive as a team together. Their energy had completely changed, and it was contagious.”, emphasized one Avea team member.
Step Four: Communicate
Knowing that presenting the final core values to the company was a critical step, the leadership team wanted to take a different approach. Each Avea leader picked the core value that personally resonated most with them and presented it during the next company meeting. Presentations included a review of the core value along with examples of common situations and how one might use it when working with our clients, partners and each other. Additionally, they each told a personal story of a time they found themselves in a difficult situation and applied the core value to guide their behavior.
Step Five: Live By Them
The final step is incorporating the core values into the organization and making them a part of the daily fabric of Avea’s life. Recognizing this is the most difficult step and where many organizations fail, Brian points out “If we are a community of people with a common mission, as a group we have to grow, and we need norms and rules for how we conduct ourselves. As a group we selected and committed to these values, and it would be fool hearty not to check in on a regular basis and ask ourselves how are we doing? This can be a constant challenge, so we encompass them in several ways throughout our culture, starting with every bi-weekly company meeting we hold.” The agenda at each company meeting might include any of the following:
- Doing a deep dive into a specific core value
- Recognizing an employee and a situation where they exemplified a core value
- Reviewing specific examples of how a core value pertains to our company performance
Other ways Avea has incorporated our core values is through performance reviews, 360 leadership reviews and interviews with job candidates. Visual graphics of each value were also created, serving as internal marketing prompts and gentle reminders that have had a tremendous impact.
Ultimately for Avea, and why we recommend creating core values, is because core values are about empowering people in the organization. They provide an easily accessible, digestible, and relatable set of rules and norms for how your team makes decisions. As your organization scales and your teams grow, employees will be faced with gray areas and decision points, and core values can create the moral and ethical north stars they need to thrive.
Get the Book
You can learn more about creating core values and using the EOS system to make change in your company in the book Traction.
In the spirit of helping Behavioral Health organizations navigate the challenges of running a successful business, we’re offering an EOS Starter Kit that includes a copy of the book Traction. If you haven’t taken us up on this offer yet, we highly encourage you to do so now, as we’ve limited the offer to the first 100 takers.
Why are we sharing EOS and offering a free copy of Traction? Avea specializes in revenue cycle software for behavioral health facilities - and it’s our passion to help treatment centers thrive, especially as the need for quality care continues to be vital. Across our clients, we continually recognize that those who prioritize operational efficiency are able to achieve growth and business success, despite ongoing reimbursement challenges. We are committed to sharing knowledge of tools and systems that positively impact operations and growth, and EOS is one of those.