Updated: Nov 5, 2020
There were times in my life when, apparently all of a sudden, I had a feeling that something is not quite right. I would for example find it difficult to set meaningful objectives or I would turn in a chronic complainer. When I had people around me telling me that I should count myself lucky for having a good position, flexibility etc and yet I kept finding reasons to complain, I was "forced” to think about what drives me in my career. With the benefit of hindsight and added knowledge about human behaviour it is now clear to me that these manifestations were brought about by my values.
Simply put, our values represent what’s important for us; we have values that govern our life, our health, our social life, our career etc. However, what we often fail to understand is that values are more than some nominalisations and that to actually define them we need to see what are our beliefs underpinning each of them. People with same values can act very differently depending on how they differ in their beliefs about how is that value defined, what are its consequences, how is it brought about etc. To go back to my example, when I think about what’s important for me in my career things that come to mind are Flexibility, Knowledge/Learning, Money, Progress, Recognition.
On the face of it, I was doing a reasonably good job at meeting all of my values. Except I wasn't. When I took time to carry a mindful “value audit” I found there is a recurring factor about these values which was related to building knowledge building. Even when I think about what money means for me, I say "affording to travel and to learn as much as I want to". When I think about what brings money, I think about recognition of excellence or professionalism. When I think about the consequences of having money I think being able to spend more time reading and investing in others.
As I was contemplating about this I started seeing myself doing something very different and I could understand why I was refusing to accept the status quo as being good enough. I could also understand why some around me were rolling their eyes when I shared my discontent. Probably they have different values or very different ways of seeing these values. As I said in the beginning, the evidence procedure and other beliefs that we hold about values are just as important as the value itself in determining our behaviour.
When it comes to organisations there is an increased awareness about the importance of aligning the values of their team members (or directors) and yet there is the risk of oversimplifying things. When doing a values assessment take the time to understand what a value really means for the individual. Also, look for ways of connecting different values; for example if as a company you have "innovation" as one of the main values, to motivate an individual who has "quality" you can define innovation as "creative ways of delivering qualitative services/products".
When defining the values of your company don't stop at listing them; take the time to explain what they each mean, how are they met and what do they lead to. This will add clarity when communicating with stakeholders, guide you in setting your objectives and selecting your team.