Why Values are Important

Sometimes in my consulting the thinking about management requires that we return to the issue of values.

Sometimes I get quite a bit of push-back from mid-level managers regarding why this is important.  Yet the reluctance to examine organizational values almost never comes from executive management.  (When it does, I suspect it is because they know that there is hypocrisy going on that they do not wish to make public.)

Executives understand that values are the navigational aids for decision-making.

To illustrate this idea, imagine being out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico on a friend’s 30-foot fishing boat.  The GPS has quit working, and the compass has a bubble in it so that it doesn’t give accurate readings, but points generally in the right direction.  It is overcast, so you can’t see the sun.

Wouldn’t you like some navigational aids right now?  Some signposts that tell you which way to go to get safely to your destination.

Without values, a leader is pragmatic.  Pragmatic means doing what gets results, without regard for adherence to any principle except achieving results.

Yet there are principles for which a leader MUST be responsible, as they model for the organization the principles of conduct that others are expected to follow.  The leader is the standard bearer for the organization, and if someone below the leader holds higher standards, then the leader implicitly abdicates their authority and credibility.

So it is important for the leader (used generically, but specifically applicable to members of the leadership team) to understand  just what values are important to the organization, because it cannot be saying one thing and practicing another.  “Do as I say, not as I do” throws an organization into disunity and disorganization.

Leaders should make themselves clear and hold the standards on values regarding honesty (to clients, peers, and management), integrity of accountability, merit and reward, teamwork, engagement, respect, initiative, discipline, courage & compassion.  None of these are binary switches.  All have shades of gray.

Needless to say, some of these values have bearing on legality.

Because people follow, leaders must understand, model and maintain the standards for the values of the organization.  Personnel look to them to define the “navigational aides to decisions and behavior.”  If people do not exhibit these behaviors, leaders should first look to themselves to see if they have been clear and consistent in their leadership for organizational values.

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