This post was originally published on the 5th of November as a LinkedIn article by Jenny von Podewils, Co-Founder of Leapsome.
At Leapsome, we’re very much aware of what makes a company successful: the people and culture are a key ingredient in every company’s success. We recently embarked on a journey to discover our own purpose and values. Together as a team, we wanted to get to the bottom of what connects us, what drives us and what makes us successful.
Even before we started this process, we knew that we were guided by something, that our values were hidden in our daily work, in the way we act as a team, implicit in our everyday behavior. So we set ourselves the goal of making our purpose and values more explicit. This is especially important as the team is growing quickly. This article briefly outlines the process we chose, the outcome we achieved and how we now go about operationalizing our purpose and values.
This project was owned by Claire, Leapsome’s first full-time employee. We are very grateful for her work on this project and proud of the outcome.
The process: How did we discover our values?
Step 1: Purpose & values survey
We wanted to get every team member’s input on this topic. Based on scientific findings, best practices and an expert’s insights (Thank you Philipp!) we designed a survey to collect stories and opinions relevant to who we are as a team.
The survey asked everyone to stop and think for a moment about why we are here doing this particular work, about the values everyone personally brings to work, or about our decisions and behaviors which led to past successes (see below for an excerpt of the questions). The team had roughly a week to complete this questionnaire.
Step 2: Founders' workshop
When the team’s answers were in, Claire first roughly compiled and grouped them into several categories that emerged from the answers. Then, Claire led a working session (approx. 2.5 hours) with Kajetan and me (Leapsome's founders) where we took the time to discover the general themes in these clusters and formulate them into an initial draft of the purpose statement and values along with brief explanations for each to make everything more tangible.
Step 3: Team working session
Following the founders' workshop, we conducted a second working session with the whole team to reflect upon the initial drafts of the purpose statement and values (approx. 4 hours). Our goal was to reach a shared understanding of our purpose and values but also to enable every individual team member to personally relate to them.
After a general introduction by Claire on the meaning of a company’s purpose and values and a recap of our process, we first revealed the purpose statement to the team. Everyone shared their thoughts, reactions and questions (we try to have more junior members of the team start sharing their thoughts first, which works very well for us). This discussion enabled us to figure out what worked and which areas needed some additional thought and revisions.
We then moved on to the values. Before the drafts were revealed to everybody, we formed pairs of two and handed one of the values to each of the groups. The groups were asked to think of a story, anecdote, behaviour, or guiding principles they had experienced at Leapsome and that was connected with the respective value. Afterwards, each group presented “their” value and attached story to the whole team. This made the presentation of the values a lot more personal. We then proceeded to also discuss what thoughts, reactions and questions they provoked among the team.
We collected everything that was said to take with us into a final round of iterations. Directly after the team workshop, we went off to our summer team event - a fun boat trip on lake Wannsee in Berlin. This was a great way to round off this day of focusing on us and on Leapsome!
Step 4: Final elaboration & presentation of our purpose & values
All insights from the team workshop were then taken into account and informed the final set and exact wording of the purpose statement and values. The final version was then presented to the team over pizza some weeks later (Purpose Pizza Party!) - nothing came as a surprise and everyone was very excited.
The outcome — Leapsome’s purpose & values
We value and work according to certain guiding principles that are important to us and that influence our behavior at work. These are our purpose statement and values as we discovered them:
Leapsome's purpose statement
Our purpose is to make work fulfilling for everyone. The work we do in life defines us in one way or another, at the very least we invest a lot of time and energy in it. For most of us, it even forms a great part of our identity. At Leapsome, we want work to be the best it can be for everyone - and create environments where people can achieve common goals, learn and grow together, and build authentic relationships. Making work fulfilling for everyone is the north star that guides our actions.
Listen and learn - We thoroughly and genuinely seek understanding. It helps us to constantly grow together and learn from each other as well as from our customers and partners
Challenge the status quo - We regularly challenge ourselves. We don’t walk the beaten path just because everyone else does. Instead, we reflect, challenge and seek out better ways.
Take ownership and pursue excellence - We’re a group of smart and dedicated people. Therefore, we trust each other to truly own our work. We’re not afraid of high expectations as we strive for excellence.
Seek impact - What has brought us together is the desire to make work fulfilling for everyone. We’re like-minded in that we seek out and hold ourselves accountable to the impact we want to have in this world.
Be honest and transparent - We’re honest and transparent with each other and ourselves. We want to get to the core of it, always. We trust each other to handle all shared information with care.
Be kind and humble - We are more than just colleagues - we genuinely care for each other. We give each other the appreciation we deserve and the support we need. We have no interest in serving our own ego.
Operationalizing it all — how do our purpose & values guide our actions?
Our purpose and values are actively used in our hiring process. They appear on our job page and job ads to give potential hires an idea on how we work. Even more importantly they are key parameters we test for in our interview process. We have a three-step interview process, and culture fit is evaluated briefly in the first telephone interview and in-depth as part of the second (on-site) interview. We have a structured interview guide for every interview stage and we have questions in place to evaluate culture fit with behavioural questions for each value. This allows us to examine whether a new team member is aligned with our values and fits with the team.
We are now introducing a purpose and values session as part of our onboarding process for every new hire. This helps everyone joining the team to gain an even better understanding of how we work together and how we discovered our values.
Feedback, praise, development & OKRs
Our values provide guidance for instant feedback and praise within the team. This is one way we hold ourselves accountable to them and how we incorporate them into our daily interactions.
Our purpose guides our strategy and our purpose statement sits above our current OKR set to emphasizes that our OKRs must be aligned with it. As we are using Leapsome’s OKR software, our purpose statement is always visible to everyone in the company when accessing our own OKRs.
We have also added our values into our own Leapsome account, which makes linking praise, instant feedback and development reviews to values easy and fun. This way, each individual's personal growth and development is connected to our values as well.
Final fun fact, apart from adding our purpose and values into Leapsome and our internal knowledge hub (we use Notion), we also “trained” our Slackbot to always remind anyone of our purpose statement and values - should they ever wonder what they are :)
Final important note: This was a discovery process, not a drafting process …
This process has worked very well for us, and it’s important to emphasize: we didn’t make our values up or design “stretch” values by thinking of something we’d like to be in the future. Instead, we literally discovered what was already there within the team, which was a fun and powerful process of learning about ourselves as a company.
We are proud of the outcome - it works well for us. Our purpose and values guide our hiring, onboarding, our daily work, and our development and growth. They help us to hold ourselves accountable to our culture and strengthen alignment as we grow. We know that this is a key part of our success.
We’d also love to hear how you discovered your purpose and values and - even more importantly - how you operationalize them. Looking forward to your thoughts and to learning from one another!
On a final note, if you would like to learn more about Leapsome or if you're interested in joining the Leapsome team, you can explore the open roles that we're hiring for or reach out to us directly! We’d love to hear from you!
Co-written by Claire & Jenny