Bringing Core Values to Life: A Look at “Stay Curious”


meerkat alertly looking into the distance in a grassy field

In today’s professional landscape, 51% of workers are actively looking to leave their current jobs and 73% are open to hearing about new opportunities, which means it’s more important than ever to engage your workforce if you want to win the talent war—and that includes keeping the talent already within the walls of your organization.

A key element to engaging your workforce is ensuring strength of culture through your company core values. Today’s workforce wants to work somewhere with strong moral fiber. They want to be filled with a sense of purpose beyond their projects and daily tasks. In the current talent landscape, candidates consider core values when vetting organizations. They want to know if they exist, what they are, how they are encouraged, shared, and promoted, and ultimately if they are truly part of your company’s DNA. If you do core values well, you’re guaranteed a more engaged and productive workforce.

  • 80% of employees feel more engaged when their work is consistent with the core values and mission of their organization (IBM).
  • 93% of workers at companies with recognition programs tied to core values agree the work they do has meaning and purpose (Globoforce).

Needless to say, core values are important. But you can’t just have them, you have to live them.

First Things First, Identify Your Core Values

At Element Three, our core values serve as the fundamental beliefs that guide our behaviors and decisions as an organization. Each core value was intentionally crafted to serve a unique purpose based on pivotal learning moments from the early days of Element Three. The history behind our core values makes them individually authentic and collectively powerful. Despite the evolution of the agency, our values have remained static and relevant since their inception because the decisions we make as a company are grounded in our core values.

E3 Core Values

Awesome Comes Standard
Business First
Emotional Intelligence
Stay Curious
Creative Swagger
Own Selflessly

Defining core values is another lesson for another day. But assuming you’ve identified them for your own organization, the question becomes, “how do I create space within my organization to recognize, promote, and encourage said values?”

Living Your Core Values: Stay Curious

While I could go on and on about all of our core values, I’m going to dive deep into one in particular—Stay Curious—and elaborate on how this value is lived out within the walls of Element Three every day.

Stay Curious: Ask why. Search more. Participate. Create. Don’t ever rest in the belief that you have it all figured out—always be looking forward to what is next.

Questions are powerful, and if you don’t believe me, Forbes thinks so too. In an article titled The Power of Questions, Forbes contributor Jeff Boss writes, “Nothing has such power to cause a complete mental turnaround as that of a question. Questions spark curiosity, curiosity creates ideas and ideas (well, good ones) lead to innovation and dollar signs—ideally.”

At Element Three, employees at every level are encouraged to stay curious. We want folks to challenge the status quo, get to the root cause of an issue, and push others to think differently and dig deeper, all through the power of curiosity and questions.

So how do we ensure our employees embody “Stay Curious?” We infuse it into seemingly small but extremely important parts of our business—onboarding and peer-to-peer recognition.


As part of our employee onboarding, each new member of the Herd must learn and share the core values with someone in the office during their third week of work. And by the following week, they must recite the values by heart. It is a seemingly simple ask of new employees, but it is something we take seriously. Within your first month at Element Three you need to know our values, because you will only encounter them more and more as you move through the organization.

So, are you bringing your core values into your onboarding experience? Or are you simply listing them out, without any specific action to take?

Another part of our onboarding is to schedule meetings with other E3ers to get to know them better. You’d better believe they’re asking questions or that gets really awkward really fast. And finally, every new E3er has to ask Tiffany—the president of our agency—a question.

To live out your core values, you can’t just list them—you need to find clever or creative ways to have your people practice them. And what better time than when someone is fresh to the organization?

Peer-to-Peer Recognition

Another place that lends itself to your core values is any peer-to-peer recognition program you might have in place.

At E3, we have a peer-to-peer recognition program in place that is meant to educate, encourage, recognize, and reward behaviors that go above and beyond in representing our core values specifically. It provides a simple platform for peers and supervisors to recognize the positive contributions of the E3 Herd. We’re at about 75 full-time employees currently, and roughly 100 Awesome Blocks (the program name) are awarded each month.

Not only does this keep core values front of mind for employees who honor their peers, but if you can make it visible, others begin to see real examples of the core values lived out in real life (some of which I’ve conveniently included below).

It could be a longtime Creative Director who “is always asking and figuring out how to lead the team and push our clients further and it’s never lost on me how much he cares. I’m doing my best to learn from his leadership style so I can hopefully be a version of how calm, yet powerful he is.”

Or it might be a relatively new employee who stepped into a project management role and “has shown mass amounts of curiosity in her first month at E3—she is constantly seeking to understand the ‘why’ behind everything we do.”

Or maybe it’s a Senior Digital Marketing Manager who jumped into a project late in the game to provide some subject matter expertise: “His ability to question how and why previous programs were built, and then improve upon those things has been huge for our team.”

Allow a Safe Space for Employees to Practice Core Values

If your core value is to “Think Big” or “Take Risks,” you’d better make sure your team members know it’s okay to fail every once in a while. And if your core value is to “Stay Curious” (like ours), you’d better give your employees a safe space to ask hard questions.

Here’s what it looks like for us: every month our organization gets together for a Business Review meeting. One component of the meeting includes a Q&A session—anyone from the organization can submit a question, and it will be addressed by the appropriate leader. Questions are all across the board, ranging from “What is the meaning of life?” to “Which service areas are we pushing right now?” Seriously.

If your employees fear practicing your core values, they’ll never truly embody them. And as a leader in the organization, you want to help them get there, not scare them away.

Live Your Core Values in All That You Do

In the end, the most simple (and potentially most effective) way to really get buy-in for your core values is to truly live up to them, every day. After all, great leaders don’t just lead with words, they lead by their actions. Show your team what living your core values looks like, and they’re more likely to follow you. Think about your core values when you make decisions, and practice what you preach. Because if you don’t, it’s unlikely anyone else is going to.

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