December 6, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Saeed
“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” ~ Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Let’s pick up where we last left off.
In my most recent article The Workplace is Broken (and 3 Radical Ways to Fix It), I advanced the not-so- radical notion that values matter – a lot. So why exactly do values matter? Let’s dig in.
Values drive culture…
Values are in your DNA. Your values are probably your parents’ values. People are values driven. People are attracted to other people and to organizations where the culture is the same as their values. This is why organizations become more homogeneous over time as does your social network. It’s also why values can drive prejudice in a workplace or in society. The glue of the in-group is values.
Values drive brand identity…
Brand values reflect the very essence of a brand. There is no better example of that than Apple. ‘Think Different’ is a value not a strategy. Being ‘iconoclastic’ is a value not a strategy. Innovation is a core value not a strategy. Of all the big companies, Apple is famously subpar on its philanthropy. That was also a value (or rather a lack of value) driven by Steve Jobs.
Values drive engagement…
When a workplace is not values driven, engagement and retention tend to be weak. Values struggle to survive in a culture which is over-managed and under-led.People are motivated by meaning and purpose which is derived from values. Without this, they have nothing to cling to and their engagement goes down over time. Values help us lean our ladder against a building. Values are embedded in the vision that keeps us climbing to the top. Now imagine having nothing to lean your ladder against. That feeling is the same as working in an environment without values.
Values drive decisions…
We make hundreds of decisions each day. Those decisions are a reflection of our values. Or at least they should be. If you let the temporary pain of an immediate problem drive your decision making, you will likely be led astray. But your values will never abandon you. I pursued graduate school because I value education. You don’t even know this but your values are in collusion with your purpose.
Values drive behavior…
If you want to correct performance, you have to focus on behavior not personality. Behavior best responds to values. You are more likely to change behavior (and to sustain the change) when the motivation comes from within. Your values determine how you handle conflict. When you’re angry about something or frustrated, you’re likely experiencing a values conflict. Your values form your conscience and together they are your court appointed attorney. When something or someone makes you behave or act against your values, then your conscience will raise an objection.
Values drive success…
If you don’t know what your values are, how can you possibly know where you are going or know when what success looks like for you? Success comes from the congruence between your goals and values. And when you feel a setback, values keep you focused and motivated. Values are your ‘north star’ that lead you to land when you’re lost at sea.
One Final Word…
Given the importance of values, I am always amazed that most people and organizations coast without any consideration of values. They just flap in the wind of endless strategy setting sessions. At best, they make the mistake of picking core values out of thin air and trying to fit them into their organization. As if values could be purchased off the shelf in a “one size fits all” fashion.
Here, I do suggest a radical change. Instead of describing or discovering your workplace values, try prescribing them. By doing so you’ll bend your culture towards more pro-social and ideal seeking behaviors. Providing you give people a mechanism to co-create the values, you’ll create an organizational environment that conveys positive emotions to all those within it and allow positive feelings to emerge in turn. You’ll create unity. Cultural change will happen, and soon. There is no choice. At the heart of that cultural change will be a new-found leadership emerging from the ranks, and that leadership will use the springboard of rediscovering lost values to take them where they need to go.
Wait! Before you go…
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Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.