Early Career
  • How to Build a Values-Based Team

    Author(s): By Thomas Davis, DNAP, MAE, CRNA

    Values-based leadership is a philosophy that teams do their best work when they share common values and apply them to every interaction in the workplace. 


    The healthcare workplace is fast-paced and often a hectic arena that challenges the skills of leaders and managers at all levels. Frontline leaders who work at the grassroots level, where provider priorities collide with the patient’s needs and expectation, are especially challenged daily to keep the train on the tracks. Values-based leadership brings stability and predictability to the workplace.

    What is values-based leadership?

    Values-based leadership is a philosophy that teams do their best work when they share common values and apply them to every interaction in the workplace. Indeed.com career development blog notes that following a shared set of beliefs increases employee collaboration and increases productivity. Writing in Forbes.com, author Harry M. Jansen Kraemer Jr. notes the four pillars of values-based leadership:

    1. Self-reflection– Knowing who you are and what motivates you.
    2. Balance – The ability to see a situation from different points of view.
    3. Self-confidence – Knowing that your decisions are based on a solid ethical foundation.
    4. Humility – Respecting the values of other individuals and of the organization.

    Clearly, building a team that knows, embraces, and lives the mission, vision and values of the organization will level the playing field and form a solid foundation for decision-making.

    Implementing this powerful leadership style begins with self-awareness and an understanding of the values that most effect the way you make your decisions both at home and at work. Several values assessment tests are available for free online and offer insight into your personal principles. Knowing who you are and what you believe will increase self-confidence in all your interactions. Encourage your team members to gain awareness by also taking the values assessment test.

    Values-based team building

    The rubber hits the road when the principles of this dynamic style of leadership are applied to the daily operation of the team. Dedicate a team meeting to discussing the mission, vision, and values of the organization. Encourage a “what if” discussion … what if we conducted our business in alignment with these values? Build a consensus within the team that going forward, the core values of the organization will be the norm for the behavior of every team member.

    Incorporate values-based leadership into the recruiting process. Ensure that job advertisements contain verbiage that reflects the core values of the team and re-write job descriptions to include the core values. At interviews, discuss core values with the applicant and have the candidate discuss examples of how they have aligned with the values in past situations. End the interview by saying, “these are the values of our team. If this is not you, this is not your job.” You will be amazed at how applicants are attracted to a job where values are known, and people are respected.

    Values-based daily management

    New hires learn the nuances of the workplace very quickly and the orientation process is your opportunity to show that your team lives the values that were discussed during the interview. Assign the new hire to a team member who role models the values that you desire within your team.

    Review your policies and procedures to ensure that they are in alignment with the core values of your team. Where possible, incorporate key words that reflect your values into your written material.

    The annual performance review is an opportunity to review the core values with the individual. Ask the person for examples of how he/she aligned with the core values over the past year and discuss behavior that will reflect core values in the upcoming year. Occasionally, negative feedback or even discipline is needed to correct bad behavior. Rather than resorting to accusations or finger pointing, review the core values, point out where the person was out of alignment, and have her/him discuss their plan to re-align with the values. End a disciplinary session with the statement, “if these values are not who you are, this is not your job.”

    Be a values-based leader

    Values that are shared by the leader, team and organization provide a sturdy foundation that will withstand the tremors and earthquakes that occur frequently in the workplace. Dignity, respect, enhanced collaboration and improved productivity all thrive when values are shared and people work toward a common goal. Increase your value by being a values-based leader


    Tom S. Davis, DNAP, CRNA, MAE, is the former Chief of the Division of Nurse Anesthesia at The Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and former Chief CRNA at (Baylor) Scott and White, Main OR in Temple, TX. Col. Davis, USAF (Ret.), is well-known throughout the Nurse Anesthesia community for his leadership in clinical anesthesia, including developing the first distance education model while on the graduate faculty at Kansas University Medical Center. Recognized for his expertise in team-building across department lines, Tom is a sought-after speaker, educator, author, and leadership trainer. Follow @procrnatom on Twitter.