- Several years ago I found myself becoming very angry at a situation that had occurred within the organization to which I belonged. I talked about it with my supervisor...I fumed about it with my colleagues...I probably even wrote about it in a previous blog. It then hit my that what I valued and believed to be right behavior was not valued or important to the organization...and I had to come to grips with that. I had to tell myself repeatedly that just because I thought a certain behavior should be valued did not mean that everyone else did or that the organization should. Once I understood that, I could move forward (and if I had not done that, I would have had to resign).
- In a recent meeting, our team was wringing their hands as to why something was not happening and why "they" didn't understand the importance of the situation. It soon became clear that "they" did not hold the same values that we did. As a group we had worked hard at thinking about our values, articulating our vales and trying to operationalize our values. When we saw others not living those same values out, we became upset - until we realized that we could not (and should not) force our team's values on another team (the proverbial "they"). And so we decided that we would focus on what we could control and continue to try to influence others, and not expect them to live by or adopt our values.
- Before the semester began, our College of Business faculty met and the first agenda item was to review and talk about how we can put our College's values into practice. There was great discussion around this, and as we went around the room talking about the highlights of the conversations, it became clear that we spent most of our time applying our values to low performers (be they students or colleagues). Our challenge became how we might also apply those values to the best and brightest, challenging the top performers to do even more and letting them live out these values among their peers.
So how can we as individuals AND as an organization value values - and make them an integral part of our day to day lives? Here are a few suggestions:
- BE SURE THEY ARE NAMED: as a group put down on paper what your values are...be specific...know from whence they come and why they are important to you...be sure they align with and enhance the mission and vision...don't let them become generic...be sure you can explain them when asked (remember that these are more internal than external - they are how we experience life together and how we treat one another)
- TALK ABOUT THEM: these should not be words on paper or plaques on a wall...they need to be in front of everyone in the organization...they need to be brought up at meetings...they need to be a part of regular reviews...they need to be important enough so they become a part of your daily language...they need to be brought up in the midst of difficult decisions.
- REWARD THOSE WHO LIVE THEM OUT: verbal recognition and a pat on the back is fine, but are there ways that people will actually be rewarded for living the organization's values out? THERE IS! One of our classes (Dr. Lynette Gillis' Leadership and Business class) is piloting a program with You Earned It! a company reward program that uses social media and prizes to recognize excellent behavior within an organization. Students will be able to reward one another with points for living out the values of the College within the classroom - each time a student gives points to another student, they must link that reward to a value and make a comment that others in the class will see (and the more points a student collects, the better the prize is for whcih they can redeem their points). More information about this product can be found at the You Earned It website - and by the way, we are the first college or university to partner with this organization...we'll see what happens!
- REPRIMAND THOSE WHO VIOLATE THEM: this is the hardest part, because we don't like to call people out on the carpet - and this is a time when I believe that the reprimand needs to be as public as possible, so that others know that you as the leader know that the value was violated. Values are so important to the health of an organization, that when they are violated, restitution should be made. One of our values is that "we practice forgiveness guided by mercy and justice." When that value is not upheld, it is not enough to note it on someone's permanent file or discuss it in an end of year review...it must be immediately pointed out, and an action needs to take place that reminds everyone about the power of forgiveness. An organization's values are not private - the public naming, talking about, rewarding, and reprimanding is what gives those values POWER.
What are your values? What are your organization's values? Do they line up? Do you talk about them? How important are they to you and others in the organization? And what can you do - TODAY - to make values valued in your organization and in your life?