By Alexandra Egan
We hear about them. We read about them. We see them on walls. On computer desktops. They’re mentioned and brought up during interviews. Occasionally spoken about in meetings. They’re handed down from generation to generation; We model behaviours around them; but what are they?
According to sociologists’ “values” are “The ideals and customs of a group toward which the people have an effective regard.” A group of words brought together that are meant to shape individuals and organisations.
Most people don’t know what their values are. In fact, most people don’t even know what the values are in their workplace. They ‘think’’ they know, but really, they know of them. They’ve heard the ’words’’ been spoken, but what do the ‘’words’’ even mean? Because values are just that. They’re just a bunch of words; and words don’t sound or look like what they’re meant to stand for, rather it’s people who give meaning and reference to these words, is what brings them to life.
Human beings, we model behaviour all the time; We model values and the values we model determine our experiences. Values are the essential building blocks of relationships. We behave based on them, even if we don’t know what they are. We befriend and reject others, based on them. Values control our thoughts, our decisions, our actions and our inactions. Values are a learned behaviour, a group of ’words’ handed down and inflicted upon us by family, culture, environment, society, the workplace and we exhibit the behavior and the characteristics accordingly.
I remember applying for a job once. My strategy was based around values. After researching this particular company, I remember being surprisingly drawn to all of their ’values’. To the group of words that were placed on their website. During the interview, I was asked why I wanted to work with this company; my answer, ‘’because based on the values of your company, we’re a perfect match.’’
- Treat people with dignity, respect and equity
- We will always listen to understand people’s needs
- We will always go the extra mile for you
- Be honest
Unfortunately, in this instance, this was not the case at all. The values, the words on their website did not match the behaviour in their workplace. Ever experienced this before? Research tells us that 65 % of leaders in companies set the vision, write it down, create the plan and only 25% of them will actually make inroads to achieving the set vision. What this means is that only 10% are actually aligned with their team.
Is it any wonder then, people who work on ’autopilot’ rarely bring their best game?
Is it any wonder that most workplaces are stuck relying on opinions with no direction?
Is it any wonder there’s a breakdown in communication and conflict in the workplace?
Is it any wonder there’s an increase in stress and unplanned leave?
The challenge with leaders is the leap from where they are, to where they need to be and that the values to which they’re currently operating out of must change to the values that they need to have in order to bring the vision of their team and the organisation to life.
Based on Dr. Clare W. Graves research, values are based on 3 elements. The first one is the nervous system, in which the values are held. Then, there’s the environment in which they are lived and then these two will determine and affect the values content, which is what we normally think of as being values.
So, when making decisions we must make sure we’re making them based on values, because when we make decisions based on values, we’re able to then support nurture and encourage what we want to experience, effortlessly, removing any distractions and overcoming any potential barriers with great success.
When we make decisions based on values, what we’re doing is that we’re creating positive resources from a heart space and support resources from a head space. Coming from a heart space connects us easily to the state in which we need to be and the right emotion for when values are up, so that they’re not just buzz words, instead they mean something and we become vested on what’s on the wall.
Often what happens when people talk about values, is that they come up with all of these buzzwords that have absolutely no meaning…Values must be defined on a logical level and where most companies go wrong is that they fail to give their people the criteria of the values and so lack congruence.
Leaders who are values driven, have a greater vision than their current reality. They possess a certain gift, a certain talent in the way in which they’re able to activate the skill that’s required to be able to see and articulate something bigger than what they currently see right in front of them. They’re very progressive and choose not to remain stuck in the status quo; and values-based leaders expect the same of their teams.
Values based leaders are very dynamic with an entrepreneurial spirit. They’re seekers of possibilities, of opportunities and not just someone who is simply in a leadership position and just going through the motions. The tick and flick; the bare minimum and just what they perceive to be what’s required of them, shutting the doors to opportunities and possibilities. Values based leaders look for newness.
Values based leaders know when things are out of alignment, and when things are not going to plan or and their teams break down, when there is no alignment. Instead, they’re focused on success, progress, growth and development.
Like most things in life, things change, and so do our values. Our values will change over time based on our experiences along the way. As we grow as individuals, so too do our values and as a result, we then start to place priority on different things. Our values change unconsciously and sometimes our personal and professional values may overlap and possibly even merge.
Leaders have a responsibility to make sure that they live and breathe in alignment with the values, along with their team and the organisation. Values driven leaders differ from the pack.
Values based leaders articulate things differently. Their language starts to change; their qualities and characteristics start to show up. Values driven leaders are unique and you’ll always hear them talking about how things are traveling, whether things are on trajectory and in alignment with the values. Values become part and parcel of how they move, how they act, how their people start to view things, impacting strategic thinking and direction. What this means is that in times of stress, in times of crisis, when the unexpected challenges arise, they’ll find that they’re able to remove themselves from the emotional roller coaster, recognise that it’s imperative that they don’t remain on the floor and in amongst all of the busyness, the whirlwind, because when leaders remain in amongst it all what happens is they start to walk their perception.
Values based leaders always create the space, and the time to remove themselves from the mess, from the busyness and they know how to come back to their centre. They know the values in which they need to be operating out of to ensure that their leadership health is in good stead.
Values based leaders pave the way. They walk the way and teach the way. They walk their talk.
They are THE model of excellence. They’re not just the innovator, the creator, the guru, they don’t just do it all themselves, they don’t allow their ego to get in the way; instead, they recognise that they must teach others how to walk and how to pave. This then helps to equip others to become successes to the team, the organisation and instil the values required to go all the way.
Suffice to say, values in action are fundamental in every organisation. Because without values, it’s easy to become lost in the busyness of it all; In fact, there are three main saboteurs:
- Things that distract can move a leader away from their ultimate vision and the values that are established for themselves, their team and the organisation
- Inconveniences such as; unplanned leave, staff member leaving, high turnover of staff, crisis situations even personal issues
- Emotions – if the leader is emotionally unintelligent, this then creates for emotionally unintelligent people, employees and clients, and as a result, will sway decisions, which means unaligned values
Values based leadership is fundamental for a well aligned organisation.
To achieve the next level of goals, purpose, next level of success can’t be done with the current value sets that are in place, because the current value sets that are in place may have been what caused the results right now. Therefore, to get different results, means a new set of values and alignment is needed, to be able to fulfil the next leg, the next part of the game that needs to be played, moving forward.
As a leader, coming from a place of values in action; means being be in the zone; what this means is thinking the right way; operating the right way; doing the right things, getting the results and teaching people the values, the right beliefs, the right attitudes, all the elements that go part and parcel with getting the results needed, consistently. What’s wonderful about being values driven and in the zone is that the leader starts to feel completely centred, completely confident, passionate, self-motivated; they use the right words, display the right behaviours, attitudes and actions that are all in alignment with the values.
When we operate out of core values, we become more efficient in making faster decisions because everything is linked to the higher priority values and if things are linked to the higher priority values, what this means is that the entire organisation becomes aligned with higher values.
About the Author
Supporting Leaders to Build their Communication Skills to Develop Their People | Leadership & Communication Strategist | Facilitator | Public Speaker | Author | Certified Meta Practitioner | Behavioural Profiler
From managing a call centre within the finance industry to managing thousands of prisoners in one of the state’s largest male-dominated prison to managing teams as front house leader for one of Australia’s largest Govt Departments.
Having worked in such high-pressure environments, where there was little or no room for error, Alexandra developed highly enviable innate skills in strategically negotiating and mediating extremely challenging situations.
The fact that she was faced with many challenging and at times life-threatening situations, has highlighted how critically important effective communication really is to be able to connect deeply with someone, earn their trust, and influence their decision.
With a passion for communication and an interest in developing people, Alexandra specialises in breaking down communication barriers, clearing out the blockages, and developing people. She has built a solid reputation as a straight shooter who gets results and the job done.
Alexandra brings a BS approach, consistency and commitment and she expects the same from her clients.
Her Mantra; ”I see potential in every human being I meet and truly believe that we are not fully formed, rather, we are all a work in progress.”
Author – Speaker – Certified Meta Practitioner – Behavioural Profiling