This month I have been thinking a lot about values, and how they impact our work and our lives. I recall three examples of different clients in years past who tackled problems that, while seemingly disparate, were actually closely related. In the first, an owner was struggling with an executive who was not meeting the owner’s expectations. The second situation involved a manager who was stunned when a customer suddenly stopped doing business with the company. The last instance concerned a foreman who was frustrated by the company’s apparent lack of concern for quality.
At first blush, poor communication between the parties involved appeared to be the root of these problems. However, upon closer examination, my clients each realized that the source of the issues was really related to values.
In the first scenario, the owner did not understand the executive’s values. They had agreed on a change in the executive’s job responsibilities. However, they failed to consider that one of the values the executive had is that of being connected. In her newly independent role, she was cut off from the daily interaction with the owner that she valued so highly. As a result, she became unmotivated, and her performance became uninspired and dull.
The second set of circumstances arose because the manager did not understand the company’s value of co-creating with customers. He assumed that once in the fold, the customer would stay and be happy with the good service the company provided. But just serving customers is not the core value of this company; it is being creative in the way that customers are served. It is one of partnership and building, of co-creating solutions. The manager failed to grasp that core value, and as a result, lost a very important customer.
The third situation was interesting because it highlighted the importance of knowing one’s own values. The foreman had a very strong value of embodying excellence. His standards for excellence in many cases exceeded those of the company. The company did not really have a disregard for quality; it just placed different values ahead of perfection. Once the foreman articulated his own values, he was able to address the issue more objectively and resolve the tension he was experiencing.
These situations illustrate the importance of understanding others’ values, the company’s values, and our own. When we begin to understand the “why” of others’ actions, as well as our own, we can begin to communicate on a more meaningful level. Clarifying values can result in better decision-making, fewer misunderstandings, and a motivated, focused workforce. As the holidays approach, I hope that you take time to reflect on, and embody, those values that you hold as important in your life.
Sharon Keys Seal