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June 27, 2016

​Does Your Company Have a Game of Thrones Problem?

What Arya Stark and Game of Thrones Can Teach You About Defining
Corporate Vision and Values

Posted by Jaime Jordan

Author's Note:  Spoiler alert! If you're a Game of Thrones fan and haven't watched season six, episode eight, then you might want to stop reading until you've seen it.

But if you're a die-hard Thrones fan like me, then you've seen the episode — probably more than once. And if you're an Arya Stark fan, you likely joined me in almost jumping off the couch when Arya uttered those spine-tingling words:  "A girl has a name. It's Arya Stark of Winterfell, and I'm going home."

Until this point, Arya referred to herself as "no one." She lacked identity and therefore had no purpose. But all of that changed with her declaration. If your company has not defined and communicated its vision and values, it may be time for you to take a cue from Arya.  

Here at the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas, we recently completed a months-long project of defining and communicating our vision and values. So I couldn't help but notice some similarities between the two.

"I am Arya Stark of Winterfell."

It took Arya 17 episodes to admit she had a name. For a season and a half, Arya answered the question, "What's your name?" with, "no one" or "a girl has no name."

As an organization, not knowing what you stand for makes it difficult to describe your organization to your various audiences, particularly current and potential employees, as well as the general public. Like Arya, your purpose and identity are unclear.

But there are a few crucial lessons to be learned from Arya about communicating vision and values. Admitting your organization has an identity, describing that identity, and letting that identity move your company forward are the keys to a successful vision and values rollout.

Establish Corporate Identity

It's difficult to communicate your company's tenets if you don't know what they are.

A few tips for establishing your values:

  • Collaborate closely with your Human Resources or People department
  • Hold focus groups with employees
  • Consider bringing in a consultant
  • Gain executive buy-in 

I mentioned that we recently announced our Vision and Values. It's not that we didn't have values before this announcement – it's just that they weren't formalized and intentionally communicated.

We previously had a set of unspoken principles that guided our actions. For example, 18 months ago we launched a campaign called "I Own It." It focused on 15 different facets of personal responsibility. (I'll save that for another post.) We also rolled out an online training and development platform because we value the continual pursuit of growth. We rebranded last year and unveiled a new tagline: "Member Driven. Community Focused." Since we are a cooperative owned by our members, it follows that we put members first.

These individual actions and projects became the foundation of our Vision and Values campaign. Now, who we are is crystal clear: We put Members First and acknowledge that Results Matter. We also Pursue Growth, Own It, and Do Good.

Much like when Arya Stark stated, "I am Arya Stark of Winterfell," the establishment of who we are and what we stand for leaves no room for interpretation.

Announce Your Identity

After establishing your vision and values, you now have the robust job of communicating them – both internally to your employees, and externally to potential employees and other stakeholders interested in knowing more about your company.

Internally, there are many options for announcing your vision and values to employees. Here are a few:

  • Hold an all-employee, milestone event unveiling the values
  • Produce video testimonials of employees who personify the values
  • Launch an intranet campaign
  • Create promotional giveaways (pens, mousepads, journals, lanyards)

Externally:

  • Establish a web page or area on your careers page devoted to vision and values
  • Create marketing brochures centered around vision and values, and highlighting employees who personify those values
  • Develop social media campaigns
  • Develop a LinkedIn SlideShare that communicates your values and culture
  • Use multiple channels: social media platforms, blogs, YouTube, etc.

Keep the Momentum Going

Don't let the hard work of communicating your vision and values statements turn into just a few posters on the wall. Continue to reinforce them. As our President and CEO Sanjay Bhasin said, "The difficult part is always living up to what you said you would do."

This is where your role as a communicator really comes into play as you keep the vision and values statements top of mind.

Here are a few tips for keeping vision and values fresh:

  • Post weekly or monthly employee features on your intranet and social media platforms
  • Organize intranet contests that invite employees to share how a particular value resonates with them
  • Produce a calendar highlighting a different value and how that value is exhibited each month

Arya was able to return home – to her place of purpose – because she fully embraced who she was. Establishing vision and values statements allows organizations to move forward with purpose. If you are considering launching a vision and values initiative at your organization, remember this declaration:

"A girl has a name. It's Arya Stark of Winterfell, and I'm going home."

Jaime Jordan is a Vice President and Director of Corporate Communications for the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas.

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