Blog Post

May your Values be your Guide: How We’ve Introduced Core Values to the Work We Do

From the desk of: Laura Rutty

October 2022

Our senior team has been learning a lot about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT has helped us focus on how we can all live and work in a way that moves us closer to what we care about. Along with learning about ACT, our services have changed in tandem with the world and with the field. It was time to take stock of what’s important when it comes to the services we provide, but also what is important to the people that make up our team.

It's no secret that values are important in contributing to work culture, which can be described simply as “how we do things around here.” Organizational values let us know what is expected of people, what they should prioritize, and how they should behave in relation to others (Tosti and Jackson, 1994; as cited in Binder, 2016). They let us know what will be reinforced and celebrated. Numerous studies have shown that when a person’s values line up with the values of the organization they work for, job satisfaction increases, turnover is reduced, and there is less conflict (Herbst & Houmanfar, 2009).

Knowing what your values are is information that will help ensure that you’re moving closer to the things you care about and believe in. Picking values can be a daunting task and if you Google a list of them, you will be looking at a number of words that seem like obvious things to care about. We can probably agree that most people care about things like family, honesty, kindness, integrity… and the list goes on. In fact, it might be difficult to find someone who’s willing to admit that they don’t care about those things. While it may be true that all those things are important, if you pay attention, you’ll find that there are a handful of values that are central to you in your life and actually influence a lot of what you do. These are called core values.

When figuring out exactly how we would determine our core values at Best Behaviour, I stumbled upon a quote by someone named Scott Jeffrey that read, “Values aren’t selected. We discover and reveal them.”

I reached out to a few people in the organizational behaviour management (OBM) community to see what kinds of exercises and processes others had done to uncover core values. I was able to get an awesome workbook from Dr. Heather M. McGee. With permission, the process we followed for determining our values was taken and adapted from Dr. McGee’s workbook.

While it would have been fun to get everybody together in-person for something like this, we also considered that our team members are busy and are often working on unique schedules. So instead, we figured out a way to do the exercise virtually. Using Google Forms, we created a Values Exercise survey, with 9 questions for our team members to answer. We asked:

1. What does success, for a learner, look like at Best Behaviour?

2. What does success, for a parent, look like at Best Behaviour?

3. What does success, for a therapist, look like at Best Behaviour?

4. What are some things we would never compromise at Best Behaviour?

5. During your time spent at Best Behaviour, what do you think we strongly believe in?

6. What are the top 6 most important qualities that make someone a great person to work with at Best Behaviour?

7. What are the top 6 most important qualities that make someone a great therapist at Best Behaviour?

8. Of the many roles and responsibilities that you have as part of our team, what are the top 3 that are most important to you?

9. Imagine you overhear the families we work with or other professionals talking about Best Behaviour. What do you want to hear them say?

The responses we got back from everybody were uplifting, inspiring, and validating. This is where the fun began for me. As I read each response, I sorted them into categories based on similarity. Some may know this process as affinity mapping. Some of the responses had a clear spot on my virtual whiteboard, whereas others were trickier to fit into categories. Any of the ones that weren’t clear to me right away, sat in the middle of the board on a grey sticky note until its place revealed itself to me. I had 2 different boards going: one for service values, and one for team values.

Here is an example of the beginning stages of the team map, while the clusters were still relatively unclear:

After much dragging, sorting, staring, redragging, and re-sorting, I ended up with something that looked like this:

Unbeknownst to me, sorting the responses into categories would be the easy part. During most of my research while prepping for this activity, many people tended to agree that an organization should have between 5 and 8 core values. While I had narrowed them down to 6 groups of words that I felt were similar, there was still lots of variation within those groups.

The next step in the process was to see how much the words in each group were related to one another. This was done by picking any two sticky notes and analyzing whether one was required in order to have the other. Take quality ABA service and integrity, for example. Does quality ABA service require us to act with integrity? Yes. If the answer was yes, then I drew an arrow from the first sticky note to the second one. Then flipping it to ask, does acting with integrity require quality ABA service? No. If not, then I moved on and repeated with another combination until all concepts had been analyzed in relation to one another.

I found this step a little challenging, as well as time-consuming. I didn’t end up doing it for all the sticky notes. It did give me a chance to see at a glance, which words interacted with others frequently and in what direction. After spending some time staring at the webs I had created, I needed someone else with fresh eyes to help narrow it down.

I met with Sophia, our Clinical Director, to share everything I had so far. Looking at these groupings for the first time, Sophia placed checkmarks on the words that jumped out to her at first glance.

From there, I took out all the sticky notes that were not flagged and did some reshuffling with what was left. As I did this a second time and with less sticky notes, I was able to see the groups and relationships a little bit clearer. I was trying to keep in mind labels that might represent each new group I had made. I wrote down each potential label as it came to me. This is what the map looked like after this stage:

Once I had some overarching labels written down, I decided to start defining them by coming up with potential value statements and what those values look like in action.

A value statement is 1-2 sentences describing what the word means in the context of an organization. After coming up with value statements, I wrote down some examples of behaviours that are in alignment with the values. In other words, what does it look like to actually practice these values?

What I loved about this step was that I got to go back and use some of the really valuable responses that our team sumbitted that didn’t necessarily get to stay on the final map. Having determined the core values, it was relatively easy to interpret a lot of the other responses in those contexts.

With my final list of values, value statements, and value-directed behaviours, Sophia took it and finalized it. You can read more about our core service values at, and our core team values at

Thank you to everybody who participated in this exercise and made it really easy for us to see what is important. We would not be able to do the work we do without our team. Everyday, we are grateful that our people demonstrate collaboration, learning, behaviour analysis, and advocacy in order to prioritize well-being, flexibility, individuality, and independence for the people we work with.

I will leave you with this quote from Brene Brown, from her book Dare to Lead: “Living into our values means that we do more than profess our values. We practice them. We walk our talk – we are clear about what we believe and hold important, and we take care that our intentions, words, thoughts, and behaviours align with those beliefs.”


Brown, B. (2018). Dare to Lead. Vermilion.

Binder, C. (2016). Integrating organizational-cultural values with performance management. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 36:2-3, 185-201, DOI: 10.1080/01608061.2016.1200512.

Herbst (S.A.) & Houmanfar, R. (2009). Psychological approaches to values in organizations and organizational behavior management. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 29:1, 47-68, DOI: 10.1080/01608060802714210.

Jeffrey, S. (n.d.). Core values list: Over 200 personal values to discover what’s most important to you. CEO Sage.