I’ve always been fascinated by how people get motivated and connect. My interest has become even more profound, given the tumultuous times we are all experiencing.
Human beings in community with one another is a very complex system. And it’s become quite clear that no one perspective can or should control the behavior of an individual human unless everyone in the community shares the same values. But what does that mean?
I looked first at the word value. Its synonyms proved illuminating.
Merit. Worth. Usefulness.
Ideas that I believe should come into play with every question I ask myself.
Does the project or idea have merit?
Does the project or idea have worth?
Does the project or idea have usefulness?
These three questions help me to determine value.
Value creates the culture, be it organizational, personal, or on a societal level. Value is a fundamental element in any structure, and it can both control and change behaviors.
So, if we decide to build a culture around value, the change will be transformative.
But what is culture, exactly?
MIT Professor Edgar Schein defines culture as a pattern of shared assumptions, beliefs, and expectations that guide members. Interpretations as actions by defining appropriate behavior within the organization.
Simply put, culture is a set of beliefs or “how we do things around here.” The values one attaches to that culture can act as a compass to set expectations; what one has to think, say, or do. Conversely, values can also be a compass for what not to say, think, or do in any given context.
In an organization, the collective creates a norm, or a belief, which creates values.
Those values change over time, and it is our job as leaders to be on the look-out for those subtle and not so subtle shifts. Because listing your company’s values, then linking them to a strategy only works if the world stands still. Which it never does.
The derived value is a result of specific thoughts and feelings, which inform that belief, and that belief becomes a value. It’s a circular, not linear way of thinking, and it allows us to chart a more mindful path forward.
The exercise of determining value requires that we first have a deep sense of the culture, a sense of what people say, and, more importantly, what they won’t say.
First, leaders must assist in making the invisible visible and begin there. If we can identify our values and we put our intention to it, then that will more fully inform our feelings and thoughts. Then the behaviors that emerge will change.
Real transformation comes from a good dose of reality and open-minded acceptance — the best fuel for our safety and security and our boundless imaginations.