Good luck gesture with fingers crossed behindI had a wonderful conversation online recently with a leader who disagreed with me. I love to engage people with different points of view in a respectful manner (from both sides!).

My post and podcast last week (Surround Yourself With Values-Aligned Compadres) prompted the discussion.

Twitter discussions are interesting. The 140-character limit means one has to be crisp & clear with sometimes complicated concepts. Let me paraphrase our conversation.

This leader said, “I wish more people had values. Too few do!” I believe I knew what he meant – that many people don’t seem to act in alignment with values. My take is that everyone has values. Everyone aligns to their values daily. We can observe their values by examining their plans, decisions, and actions.

I responded with, “Everyone has values. Bullies have values. Teen gang members have values. They just hold values that are different than my own.”

The leader said, “I don’t think thugs have values!” No question about what this leader believes, right?

My responses might have helped this leader see this concept from a different angle.

My experiences with values alignment began formally four decades ago, in my YMCA days.

In the 1970’s I was actively involved in values clarification. A couple of my bosses used values clarification in our work teams. I used it with my camp directors and counselors to ensure we were all on the same page with how we’d treat each other, how we’d treat our campers, and how we’d treat their family members each summer.

In all the values clarification sessions I ran – for literally hundreds of people – not one person failed to come up with their personal values. The values might have varied widely from person to person – especially with how they defined their values – but every person was satisfied with their values list.

I also learned how values-aligned teen gangs are. The national project I directed looked at teen programs and what the teens of “today” (in the early ’80’s) were looking for in their lives. We conducted hundreds of interviews with teens and parents. One of the most valuable resources for us was a study that came from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.

That study found that teens were looking for three things. First, they want do do things that are cool, different from things they do with their families. Second, they want to belong to a group (as opposed to isolating themselves). Third, they want to do things with that group that advance their group’s meaningful purpose.

In our discussions of this powerful data, we realized these three things are true for teen gangs. Gang members are as values-aligned as US Marines or Zappos team members. Those three groups hold very different values, but each embrace their “team” values deeply.

This data and my experiences lead me to believe strongly that everyone has values. We experience others’ values in the ways they treat others (including how they treat us). We experience others’ values in the decisions they make. We often question their decisions from a values standpoint. In our heads, we think, “I would never do that! I value my independence (or family or faith or whatever) too much to go down that path!”

Right now, we each are acting on our values. The beliefs and principles we hold dear guide our individual plans, decisions, and actions.

By formalizing my values, I can quickly assess how well I’m living them each day. And, I can quickly assess the values of people in my life – at work, home, community, etc. – and can then assess how aligned their values are with mine.

And I can choose who to hang out with, who to work with, and who to spend my life with.

What do you think? Do you agree that everyone has values? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © Catalin Pop – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

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The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.

S. Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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