Reclaiming Our Values
It’s now fairly common to hear organisation leaders talking about values. And this can only be positive. I frequently ask myself however whether this is because they truly believe in and see the significance of values in our life – great – or, whether they are following a trend – not so great!
Trending topics tend to be short-lived, dealt with superficially and attract fluff.
At the same time, the increased awareness for the significance of values could, if positively leveraged, lead to a trend that the world doubtless needs …
… Organisations focused and thriving on Purpose, driven by Values …
What are ‘Values’?
Values are an internal reference for what is good or bad, desirable or undesirable in ourselves and others. They are moral principles, based on beliefs, so significant to the individual that they drive our behaviour: interactions with others and the world.
Values are fundamentally individual, and therefore, for individuals alone to define. Yet they only have meaning when seen in the context of our relationships with one another.
As deep-rooted drivers of our interactions, they cannot be proclaimed.
And here lies a significant problem … far too frequently, they are, with the result that they in fact, become meaningless.
Any social group needs to develop group values to exist, progress and thrive.
And by definition, values can only be perceived as ‘values’ if they are valued … if the group members live and act according to them.
They need to emerge from or be developed by the whole group, including the leadership.
Proclaimed values may sound and look attractive. Yet, most people who have worked for longer in organisations who operate in this way will be able to tell stories of the cynicism they tend to attract and possibly even the conflict they can generate. Imposition is a conflict-oriented approach.
Developing a Values-Driven Organisation
There is another way, a simple yet highly impactful approach with a significant chance of success if implemented whole-heartedly …
… involve all members in the process of developing real organisation values, while focusing on its purpose!
More and more organisations today are ready to explicitly recognise the role of a positive culture in adding and driving value. It is after all the soul. And the identity of this soul is value-driven.
Whereas the “What?” of the business is usually (not always) clear, the “How?” frequently is not.
Let the group define it. Change the Question …
This fundamental Question enables us to get to the heart of challenges very quickly.
I frequently use it with clients very early in the process of integrating new groups: e.g. following a corporate acquisition or a merger in a non-corporate organisation, with management and expert teams following a reorganisation, mobilising new projects, etc.
Using the Powerful Questions and process of cultureQs, group members engage in deep meaningful generative conversations in which they … quickly … recognise and accept each other’s variety of perspectives on what is ‘valued’, enabling them to immediately focus on developing their guidelines for collaborating within the pre-defined structures that all organisations need.
Of course there are no guarantees in life.
Joint ownership, however, does create the degree of engagement required to enable a values-driven organisation to thrive.
The next challenge is to ensure it does so, but by then, they already have the tools …
… to generate additional value for all …