Team Building

Mission, Vision, Values: Part 1

Contributed by: Krystal Meiners, Director of Marketing

I recently read an article from FastCo entitled “Why Are Construction Workers the Happiest Employees?”It was such a catchy headline – 1. Because I truly feel that I work with some of the happiest, most positive people at Green Canopy and 2. Because the article was literally published hours after our annual Mission-Vision-Values (MVV) workshop.

The article goes on to explain many of the reasons that construction employees are particularly happy in their jobs – the number one reason is that they feel supported by their team. The article couldn’t be more right. And our recent workshop revealed much of the same.

This workshop is one of my highlights of the year - it is always an experience that gets our team teary-eyed about the culture that we share and the support that we have for one another (OK, maybe I’m the only one that got teary-eyed BUT I know people were excited to share and inspired to continue building a great company). It is also a time where we define or vision and goals for the year.

While some would cringe at this type of corporate, stick-in-the-mud, trust fall, team building event – we have yet to have that experience during MVV. Probably because it is less of a team-building event and more of a realignment of the company - a chance for everyone to speak to the values that we foster as a team.

Each year we discuss and develop a set of values that enable us to work better, smarter and with more impact as we grow and change as an organization. It’s like group counseling for a group that already works well together. Our “counselor” is Neil; a lithe corporate culture connoisseur with a big brain and a dirty mouth. He leads our process and lends great perspective. He keeps us from getting hung up, and keeps the mic moving (further and further away from our CEO). Got to hand it to Neal – he knows what he is doing – and keeps people talking during a variety of group breakouts, Q&A and team sharing.

In part 2 and 3 of this blog series, we will explore the Core Values, Aspirational Values and work mantras that were developed by the team and that are currently being synthesized into a consumable format.

For now – I was hoping to share the thoughts of some of our team members on the process and what they got out of the shared experience. For many – it was their first MVV, which is particularly impactful to us as a company. Their first impressions and insight into the framework that keeps our corporate culture from stagnating is quick to reveal whether our values are perceived as lip service or not.

Here is what some of our team members had to say:

  • Dean Gorby; Project Manager and MVV Virgin:

  • I felt humbled after the workshop Friday, so many talented people devoted to such a worthy cause – the fact that the leadership put so much effort into sharing their vison with us and allow us to become part of it through participation, only makes me more committed to contribute to the success of GCH. I hope I can be a part of its future.

  • Canuche Terranella; COO & MVV Veteran:

  • I love hearing the perspective of the guys I don’t work with every day. I love hearing about what Accountability means to Oscar, what Autonomy means to Larry, what happens when you take an idea from sales and you interpret it from the perspective of the site super.  It’s a great moment of sharing perspectives and re-calibration to what we’re working on.

  • Eric Thomassian; Project Engineer and MVV Virgin:

  • I think it’s an important workshop to have because we have so many people from different backgrounds who have different values and reasons for being here at Green Canopy. As a mission driven company, it’s important for me to have the opportunity to lay out our values and mission for the coming year. It aligns and connects us together as one company towards similar goals. We know better what we can expect from each other and what we to be held accountable for as a Green Canopy employee.

  • Ami Nieto; Office Manager, Portland Lead and MVV Veteran:

  • The annual MVV retreat is a fulfilling and motivating experience for me as an employee at Green Canopy. For me, this year’s retreat was a reflection of the recent changes within the Company and a reminder to focus on the importance of our core values. I would appreciate an all-day retreat so that we would have time to talk more about our vision and mission. There is so much more we could talk about as a group that would provide value to the culture we experience each day at Green Canopy.  It would also enable us to synthesize the values as a team and come up with the “new name” for those values that are being changed. It feels like we are losing a bit of the group voice by having the Leadership Team take it to another room/place/time to decide on those values among themselves.

Every year, our CEO has shown the same video during our Mission Vision Values retreat. The video depicts a funny, groovy dancer in a field doing his own thing. Soon he has a crowd around him and everybody is having a good time dancing and grooving and loving the music. For the last few years – Green Canopy has managed to attract a number of talented individuals who are excited to join in the dance and enjoy the music. This year – Aaron challenged us. He stopped the music and said “Dancing together in a field is fun but what if this were a flash mob?”

He challenged us all to hone in, focus and master what we do at the company so that when we all dance together it is choreographed and succinct- intentional yet impactful. At the core, we are all dedicated and passionate people – but becoming masters of our work, masters of our budgets, and masters of this business is what is going to take us from passion to profits – from dancing in a field alone, together – to dancing together in support of one another.

Sure the article mentions that construction workers are happy because the industry is on the rise which leads to job security, etc. but that can be said about a lot of industries. The reason why Green Canopy employees are so happy – is because we are a team – with shared values that allow us to dance together.

Corporate Values & Corporate Culture: is it Legit, or is it lip Service?

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Contributed by Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy Inc.

According to 2013 research published by Luigi Guiso, Paolo Sapienza and Luigi Zingales, The Value of Corporate Culture, 85% of S&P 500 companies have at least one section of their website dedicated to -- what they call -- “corporate culture” i.e. principals and values that should inform the behavior of the firm’s employees. Values are important to promote and advertise on corporate websites and reports, because it is imperative for companies to manage their image. External stakeholders expect companies to have thought about their values and publicly acknowledge them. The act of creating and promoting values can help assure external and internal stakeholders that the company has a higher degree of integrity and is guided to conduct their business in a way that is consistent with and based on their stated values. 

Start with Intention

I recently spoke with the CEO of a publicly traded bank who was extremely proud of his employees for going through the process to create and document their values. They were, “developed by a group of really passionate employees that love this organization and only want the best for the bank, our employees and our customers.” Their guiding philosophy relating to their values are stated as, “Our Core Values encourage us to act in a manner that “wows” others and provide us with the opportunity to guide our actions that allow us to become who we want to be. We take pride in our Core Values and strive to live them each day.” This is an example that provides insight into great intentions and proactive leadership. However, when I asked him, “What does the bank do to ‘strive to live them each day’?” he floundered. Wasn’t it enough to go through the process to create their values and then promote them both externally and internally?

Learn from Employee Perception

This is a great place to start. But organizations that want to leverage the power of corporate culture to increase productivity and returns need to do more. 

The Guiso, et al. study also uncovered some additional, interesting facts regarding advertised values. Notably, the value most commonly exploited by the S&P 500 companies was “Innovation” followed by “Integrity” and “Respect”. When the researchers attempted “…to correlate the frequency and prominence of these values to measures of short and long term performance,” they “...fail[ed] to find any significant correlation.” Basically they found that advertised values are not a great indicator of corporate and employee performance. Perhaps that is because it is easy to state your values, so everyone does. 

Another point to note in the research is the concept of perceived value. The study found that if the employees of the company perceive management to have a high level of integrity, there was a positive correlation, and good outcomes in terms of higher productivity, profitability, and the ability of the company to attract talent. In other words it isn’t enough to create and promote values, they had to be perceived and held within the employee base of the organization.

Living Values

So how do we know if a company’s stated values are not just something that they claim to be true, but are indeed perceived and held by the employees of the company? 

A few clues to consider in your evaluation process: 

  1. If the company has its values listed internally or in an orientation packet, but they do not advertise their stated values on their website, this would suggest a note of caution. Again, according to the research paper, 15% of all S&P 500 companies do not advertise values. If you don’t talk about your values or share them with outside stakeholders then it is hard to be held accountable to them. It may also indicate that their management wants to be authentic and doesn’t feel the need to advertise values, however it certainly begs inspection.

  2. Does the firm, large or small, value their Human Resources Department or efforts. In small, start-up firms many times HR is valued lower than marketing. The commitment of the leadership to focus on their number ONE asset, their human resources, is indicative of their values. In larger companies, is the head of HR part of the Executive Suite? In other words how high up are Human Resources valued? If the head of HR is nowhere near the top of the company, this would indicate a gap and that the leadership of the firm does not have a high attribution to corporate values. 

  3. Inquire how developed their internal recruiting processes are. If employees don’t want to recommend their friends to work at the company… something may be off.

  4. Can an employee who has been at the company around one year tell you the values of the company? If the company is living their values, it should be easy and even exciting to share with others the shared sets of values at the firm.

  5. Can managers and employees give examples of when others made decisions that aligned with the values of the firm? Clearly if no one can, I would question if their values are lip service.

  6. Lastly, ask the vendors and customers of the firm what makes the company different from others in same field. If examples of what makes the firm different line up with their stated values, you can assume that their values are not just lip service and that the employee on the front lines is living the firm’s values. 


I am sure you can think of many more “sniff tests”. The fact that anyone can truth-test stated values should give employees, investors, and customers alike a leg up in identifying if a company is truly anchored by its values (which correlates to performance and profitability) or if their stated values are just the lip service of corporate collateral created in the back halls of the Marketing Department.