In the very best teams and organisations values are not just words they are agreed behaviours.
I learned this the hard way a long time ago as I share in the 2009 video below.
Values must be agreed behaviours otherwise they are just meaningless words.
Over the course of a three year project with one client, I helped them through collaboration with one another, to turn values (single words) into virtues ("behaviours showing high moral standards").
In the case of this client 18 behaviours were the result of significant work. We subsequently learned that 18 is too many and that three to five is good practice.
As behaviours became the focus, or as one of the leaders involved described it "As soon as living our values became our intention, and the key focus of our attention, performance dramatically improved."
I was astounded by the performance improvement and observed two other deep factors at play.
1) The more values were lived, the more people felt valued, and the greater value they exchanged and delivered to other people.
2) I also learned that sustaining a high level of feeling valued, living values, and exchanging and delivering value, depended greatly on leadership, management, and culture.
I have since evolved my work to the current Heart-Leadership. Learn more here.
A 14th May 2010 New York Times article by one of my favourite authors and writers, Thomas L. Friedman, deeply influenced my thinking.
"So more and more of us are behaving by, what Seidman calls, “situational values”: I do whatever the situation allows. Think Goldman Sachs or BP. The opposite of situational values, argues Seidman, are “sustainable values”: values that inspire in us behaviors that literally sustain our relationships with one another, with our communities, with our institutions, and with our forests, oceans and climate. Of course, to counter this epidemic of situational thinking, we need more and better regulations, but we also need more people behaving better. Regulations only tell you what you can or can’t do in certain situations. Sustainable values inspire you to do what you should do in every situation."
The Seidman Thomas Friedman refers to is Dov Seidman, the C.E.O. of LRN who help companies build ethical cultures. More about Dov here. Please read the full Friedman article here.
Sustainable values are for me virtues ("behaviours showing high moral standards"). And sustainable values are a key to your sustainability as an organisation in a world viewed by a few as "post-truth", "fake news".
Who will you become?