I’ve been very lucky throughout my career to be attracted to jobs and opportunities where I’ve worked with people who share my values and life principles. There have been times when I’ve engaged in project work with players who were clearly not values-aligned with me . . . and much learning resulted!
I have bragged about one of my best bosses, Jerry Nutter (a long time executive with YMCAs in California) in previous posts. Jerry taught me to observe others’ behavior as “that will give you insights into their values” and to surround myself with values-aligned people. “Life is too short,” Nutter explained, “to do otherwise.”
Day-to-Day Decisions and Behavior Reveal Values
You likely have seen these behaviors in the workplace during your career:
- engaging in gossip
- withholding information from peers to make oneself look better/smarter/more productive
- teasing and/or making fun (sometimes in the name of “team-building” <sigh>)
- complaining about someone’s behavior to a peer, team lead, or boss without going directly to that person to address the concern
These and dozens of other similar behaviors happen in organizations every day. If your organization’s has not intentionally defined their desired culture and values base, norms often evolve that tolerate (and even support) behaviors like these.
Decisions reveal values in the workplace, as well. If you’ve had a boss belittle a team member (in front of them or behind their back), take credit for work others have done, or promised to do “X” yet moments later did the exact opposite, you are seeing the values they embrace.
The Hole In One
I experienced an epiphany about values mis-alignment years ago on the golf course. A work colleague and I enjoyed golf, and began playing together at a local course on Saturdays. This colleague (let’s call him Bill) had a reputation in the company for making fast decisions that served him and his team well . . . even if it meant stepping on toes. I’d seen Bill publicly belittle others more than once, so had that gnawing feeling in my gut about this gentleman’s values. I was always on guard around Bill, even outside the workplace.
We approached the par 3 17th hole and Bill set up his tee shot. He pushed the ball into the greenside creek. He cursed up a storm while placing another ball on the tee. He swung and hit a very nice shot towards the pin. It took one bounce and dove into the cup!
I said, “Nice par!” Bill’s first ball in the water cost him a penalty stroke, so he was hitting his third stroke on the tee. Bill looked at me angrily and said, “I’m taking that as a hole in one!” I was not surprised at Bill’s self-serving stroke tallying . . . but realized at that moment that I was at fault by spending time on the golf course with someone whose values were very different than mine. I fixed that immediately – I preferred playing golf with strangers than with Bill.
Do The Right Thing for Your Sanity, Productivity, and Spirit
Being around values mis-aligned people lowers trust, discretionary energy, and performance. Our research suggests three key steps to values-aligned experiences:
- Be clear on your own values. Define the behaviors you will demonstrate when you are living your values, and take time regularly to reflect on how you’re doing with modeling those valued behaviors.
- Observe the decisions and behaviors of others. It is not your responsibility to change their values, but it is up to you to insulate yourself from those whose values are inconsistent with your own.
- Actively cherish and celebrate the people around you who DO share your values.