The Value of Values

I’ve often had this said to me before people get to know me… “You are very opinionated and challenging, aren’t you?”

But this evolves into some statement, that says something like “I see you are a very values driven person and want to make sure that everything you do aligns with them” – which normally includes some reference to objectivity, fairness, giving space to all voices, non-judgmental and other words which do align with my personal values.

I’ve realised that for me, my motivation for change is often triggered by a need to see my values being realised and nurtured within organizations. To do this there is a strong alignment and recognized need to focus on the culture. This thought pattern has brought me to the conclusion that my currency for success is actually the delivery of my values as demonstrated within the cultural needs, shifts and repositioning I’m so often part of enabling.

Now I’m writing this within the Capillary Blog and I had a moment of horror as I realised, we don’t have a set of values that we operate within as part of our internal cultural dynamic. I will restate that. We don’t have a published set of values for Capillary. I think we all have a known values set when we work with and engage clients, learners and more. These strongly align with my personal values but really, we’ve never written that down and published organizational values. Strange I know!

This sudden moment of clarity, made me dig a little more into the whole values piece. Yes we’ve talked about values, beliefs, principles and more for many years as indicators of the behaviours seen within organizations. My second moment of clarity was actual a moment of confusion. I came up with this quandary… which is more important – publishing values or living values?

Now of course, my immediate instinct went to living the values. However, I reflected that if I don’t have them published anywhere, how will someone know what we hold dear, why we say and act the way we do and all manner of other elements. In fact how would anyone know you are living your values if they don’t know what your values are in the first place. Great, now I need to publish some fancy values piece, get it into the company handbook, publish on the website! This thrills me not, why? How many times have I been engaged with organizations who have some set of seven values (and it so often is seven), that nobody internally knows or understands? I don’t want to fall into that category!

My thought patterns continued to mix and merge until I arrived at a conclusion. Values need to be visible so that you can be held accountable by them and provide transparency to people who need to know where we sit on certain situation. Also, they are of no value (pun intended!) if they are not delivered upon and reflected by all within the organization. In summary, for there to be value in values they have to be seen and embodied by the people in the organization and those the organization serves.

What does this mean for Capillary? Well, I have a task to be undertaken very shortly. A piece of work I’ve done so many times with other organizations I have forgotten my own. We need to have our values clearly defines and fly them high from our flagpole of fairness. I guess that’s going to be published soon!

This has been such a valuable lesson to learn about cultural mindset in organizations – we have a duty to lead by example and demonstrate true leadership in all that we help others do. Now I’m off to audit our own organization!

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