Values Selection – Subjective?

Values are a hot topic these days. People seem more open to talking about them in constructive ways. One of the global leaders in Values-Based Leadership thought, Richard Barrett, of Barrett Values Centre in the UK, will frequently (consistently) be heard to say, “beliefs divide – values unite”. I was a bit skeptical at first…I was not sure that all values unite, nor that values are that disconnected from beliefs. However…given that so much of our world is constantly affected by negatively impacting behavior (fraud, greed, corruption, etc) I find myself thankful that people are open to talking about values in any fashion.

The values of an organization (or individual for that matter) as experienced in behavior (not simply stated) form the culture of an organization (life experience of an individual). We will find people often speaking of values through this culture experience in the ways such as, “culture & performance”, “culture and brand”, “culture and customer experience”, “culture and engagement”…and so on. What of values and purpose? It sounds attractive to suggest that we want people to be free to show up at work living their personal values within the context of organizational life. Who wouldn’t want to work for an organization where you could live out whatever you truly valued…what a sense of freedom! Sign me up!

Still…I believe that any selection of values undertaken, outside of the parameters/context of purpose, is subjective at best, and perhaps foolish, or even dangerous to the health of the organization (and for that matter any/every individual).

A selection of articulated values serves to guide our decision-making; values are decision-making filters. These decisions guide our behaviors…these behaviors form our culture. The foundational question in the selection of values needs to be, “What ensures the impact and sustainable fulfillment of our purpose?”

If we clearly define our purpose (or mission if you prefer), we can then ask a series of questions to determine optimally guiding values, such as: “What must we do to ensure fulfillment?”; “How must we act?”; “What would take us out, and how can we mitigate that?”