The Value of Values
One of the challenges about writing about something that everybody knows, or think they know, is that everybody often assumes they know it all. You don’t! Trust me… a few interesting realities about values follow. And the astute operator will see where the money, success, or whatever is really important to you lies in this.
Values Attract and Repel
Political correctness really doesn’t do it for most people. Oops, am I about to say something controversial? Nope, not really. But you’d have to recognise that most people will quickly realise that if you are being politically correct that you are only really playing it safe. It’s often wise to play it safe, however it rarely engages people. To engage your audience, you have to express something that matters to them. Now, if you dare say something you will almost certainly polarise. Look no further than one Donald J. Trump. You should not however be scared about this. It is a very normal and very strong human dynamic.
Look, I’m not advocating some form of extremism, surely not! Your values can be very mild and mainstream even (see this article in Fortune.com several mainstream examples), but the crux is that you care about these values and are in effect, without maybe even uttering a word, asking those who believe with you to engage in achieving these values with you.
So what? Easy. If you are a business owner, or a senior manager with enough clout, you will have influence in forming the company’s values. Irrespective of your business’ stance on values, you will also be in the position to establish and communicate values for your team. Your values will come through in anything from declaring initiatives to conducting job interviews. And you can wield your values to good effect to attract employees that can share your values and put off people from joining that do not share your values.
It’s a very natural and effective selection process. And look at it this way, those over achievers out there will be looking for something they can believe in, especially early on in their career. If you offer them the opportunity to over achieve in your team while doing something that they believe in, that’s good for everyone not?
Values Sidestep Barriers
Values tend to be very democratic too. It is each person’s own individual choice if they want to pursue a value or not. No-one can force us to believe something we don’t. They can go a long way to shape your behaviour so that you later on act and look like the real thing, but you ain’t going to believe what you don’t want to believe.
The thing is, everyone intuitively gets this. Most of us also get it that the person next to me, no matter her skills, demeanour, intelligence or looks, could believe in what I believe in. And even though she may have a different approach, as soon as I see she is achieving the same outcomes that I care about I will start to respect and value her.
Hence, the team may hate your guts for whatever reason, but if they believe in the values you are pursuing, and can see that you are working to achieve your values, they are likely to jump in and start helping.
So focus your team by making your values clear and you will find people coalescing around outcomes. In so doing you will often avoid conflict while allowing teambuilding dynamics to shape a team’s behaviour to fellow team members.
Values Access Higher Levels of Human Efficiency
I love discussions around what will happen one day when machines achieve consciousness and the role of humans in that post-singularity world! I can’t wait! Why am I so positive? Well one of the things that I can see happen for a long time after the singularity event is that humans will still hold the keys to creativity. The X-factor! Yep – you may argue that machines will be able to get to any solution faster than we can, but I would argue they would not be able to define the challenges we need solutions for properly for some time. Also, until such time as machines can develop a taste for art, can appreciate say the ‘finer things in life’ or even something as lofty as ‘values’ they will lack the desire to achieve what we want to achieve.
That brings us back to the present again. If you want a team that delivers on the promise of an X-factor then you would have to engage them. Good management understanding suggests that each of us will need a unique variety of motivators to be engaged. I can guarantee you however that a value buy-in is one of the most powerful motivators and will allow for some of the other usual drivers to be suspended, or even in some cases ignored permanently. I do not want to delve too deeply into engagement as a subject, read here for interest, but you’d appreciate its business value when present.
Values Satisfy Endeavour
Finally, values tell us when we have done a good enough job. Someone could engage on the field of battle, or business, give their best, do the right things, have the right team and still somehow fail. Realisation may set in and failure land heavy on the heart, but imagine a trusted advisor, maybe a dear family member, maybe a good friend, then come to that person and say: “You have done good.” Wouldn’t that change things? Wouldn’t it be saying that even though the evidence of the moment indicate failure, he has somehow through his hard work and dedication done something that is worthy?
That’s what values offer you, it gives you, and your team members, something higher that a mere KPI or other performance marker. If gives you the satisfaction of having engaged in things of value. You may do things different or better next time, but you would still strive for outcomes aligned to your values, irrespective.
I leave these thoughts with you. Call in if you need to.