Putting Values into Action

Got ethics? Are you ethical question handwritten with white chalk on blackboard with eraser smudges

Dr. Purushothaman
December 13, 2013

Increasingly our work with our key coaching clients is shining a spotlight on the importance of knowing our Values in lives work and careers.

So what are values? Where do they come from and how do they impact on behaviours and results?

First of all, our values exist at a subconscious level, so we often don't even realise we have a certain value until asked directly about it or until an event or behaviour challenges a core value.

For example I have a core personal value around honesty and integrity... Some years ago I worked in a junior management position for a national company. I became increasingly stressed, to the extent that at one point I was physically ill. Eventually I resigned. A number of years later when exposed to the concept of core values I reviewed my stressed experience and realised that my immediate manager had a completely different value set to me. He demonstrated these values through his behaviours. (My relative youth, ambition and aggressive certainty and belief in black and white probably exacerbated his behaviours.)

Each time I feel "stressed", and I examine the events in my life with my coach, to date every time there has been a challenge to my values.
So core values are unconscious, but powerful enough to causse illness, stress and resignation. I have since discovered through coaching others and through my research that my reactions and responses to having my values trampled on were entirely normal.

Values generally come from lessons learnt and examples provided at an early age from key role models and influencers. We unconsciously model ourselves on those who had the strongest influence. I note that many of the values I live and espouse as an adult were those I gained from my father.

Because values are a part of our deep structure and remain unconscious, they impact on our behaviours in ways that are not always easily or logically explained. Eg Illness and stress.

Countries have gone to war for their values. Couples have divorced, and Business partnerships have split.

When you are feeling "stressed" it may be useful to have a values centred reflection on the current events in your life.

So how to uncover values? Often when we simply ask someone directly to list their values they will give fairly predictable middle of the road answers.

However, when we really listen to what others are saying including what they don't stay, we can ask pointed values based questions...
Another way is the to listen to the throwaway "unconscious" comments and "unconscious" behaviours demonstrated by others, their values are easy to identify.

Unfortunately this can be a much slower process.

For example a person who drives without a valid drivers licence is unlike to have a value around honesty or integrity. Similarly a staff member who helps himself to the company's property in small way eg stationery, will likely carry the same honesty and trust value to larger and more valuable situations

Organisational values are built over time and are generally developed and communicated in a top down approach.

The deep unconscious nature of personal values is such that we are unlikely to discover them during a recruitment interview. So new staff may not have personal values which support or are aligned with the organisation's. This can (and does) lead to behaviour and morale issues especially when new staff are in management /leadership positions.

One organisation which has a high value of respect for others, suffered a localised bullying and harassment issue when inductions stopped being run by Head Office.
Interventions then focus both on behaviours and also on the core values being espoused.

So far I have covered situation when values have been challenged. On the positive side, often when we bring values to the surface; situations, past behaviours and choices become clear and decision making becomes simple (but not easy).

Eg a man being encouraged by his friends to end a relationship because his partner "did not fit in" reviewed his core values and committed to a loving relationship with his special lady - he doesn't see much of his friends any more.

Knowing your core values gives you immense freedom of choice. You are no longer bound by unknown stressors. Living your values creates a sense of ease in decision making.

At an organisation level - when the organisations values are espoused during the recruitment stage, candidates can decide to opt out (or in). The self selection process then makes aligning staff and organisational values much simpler. When values are promoted during inductions and the leadership behaviour clearly demonstrates walking the talk, the problems I have previously described are rare. (Always supposing that ethics, integrity, and respect for others are including in the organisations values)

A coach can assist you at an individual level to go through the process of eliciting your values and facilitate you to make key decisions based on these. This simple - but in depth - process takes a few hours of private one-one coaching time.

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