Lindsay’s In Business: PART 43: On values


What happens when you realise your path is entrepreneurship rather than employment? Lindsay takes up the challenge and shares an account of her journey as it unfolds… 

For a long time, I’ve had my doubts about ‘values’.

  • In terms of behaviours, don’t people use different values under different circumstances?
  • How can an organization say they want people to ‘take on’ certain values when we all have our own?
  • How do values relate to personality?

I was interested in this because of the design of Mirror Mirror. Was I missing something?

Someone referred me to a lady called Jackie, who is all about values. I set up a skype call.

She was amazing. She didn’t care that I was getting 1-1 tutorial, didn’t ask what’s in it for her. She just laid it all out, then offered a free values test with a talk through on the results next month. Really, a very clear, generous, giving lady. And the hope is that I can refer clients to her, so it’s not all one sided – at least not in the longer term, potentially.

She said:

  • ‘Values’ is a huge and influential area. The tool I use logs 128 different values. Anything from kindness, to courteousness, to efficiency…
  • When you talk about values, you are talking about the disposition of someone to doing something. You can answer the phone politely, you can answer the phone with a machine – both are answering the phone, it’s about HOW.
  • Values are abstract ideas that are high in emotion. They sit in hierarchies in clusters and vary according to the object of attention. People choose to use different clusters based on their emotions. When people are in a fearful situation, they default to more protective values etc.
  • In terms of the relationship between personality and values, some say that the personality is more fixed, that it even becomes fixed at some point in your 20’s. Some say personality is hard wired – it’s more about your DNA (for example whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert is strongly linked to genetics. Ultimately, personality is what we have. Values is about what we do with it, so it’s far stronger.
  • Going WAY back, before there were monkeys, there was an animal called a prosimian (Jackie used to be a zoologist). It moved from the ground up into the trees to survive, and into forests. So that it could see which green leaves were better to leap to, it developed sight in colour rather than black and white. Later, its eyes moved from the side, where it could spot predators all around, to the front of its skull so that it could instead focus forwards, on the next branch to catch. Apparently at that point, there was so much more information for the brain to process that the next physical evolution built an optic nerve from the limbic brain (conscious) to the amygdala (unconscious). All incoming information to the little prosimian went through that nerve and then only the meaningful stuff would come back. In this way, it could make snap decisions. The ‘meaning’ selected is based on what it thought was important, on its mental model of survival, a framework called beliefs and values.
  • Back to today. You’re in a meeting. Tom is the Chairman and values efficiency. He’s delighted to have wrapped everything up 2 mins before the official close. Trevor is insulted because he values expression and feels Tom didn’t give him a chance to make his point. Meantime, you value progress and are frustrated because you don’t think the meeting changed anything. Everyone’s view is valid – but are they compatible? In this way, we only see things as we see them because everyone’s view applies to for their own mental models.
  • In organizations, there is a natural socialisation process around common values, so you’ll see ‘tribes’ forming around their hot value areas. If the values align – if they are compatible – it’s fine. The problems start when they don’t. Take the sales department with board that shows who got the most sales that month. It’s a race. The complaints department next door however, is dealing with new customers who don’t understand the products properly because the sales person was racing to close the sale. Expediency vs care. The company suffers.
  • This can be managed using a deliberate construct of organizational values. These can be applied to processes and ways of working throughout the organization to harmonise behaviour towards achieving the same goal.
  • The extent to which an individual can take on values that are ‘imposed on them’ depends on two things: 1) how much support they get in terms of understanding why doing things in a certain way is better for a higher goal, and 2) how closely the values relate to their natural values. Based on these two factors, people can either rule themselves out of the action or not. If they can make a conscious connection between what is required and what choices they have, their capacity to be flexible vastly increases.
  • It’s complex because two people won’t take the same actions if they have the same values because it’s the interplay of beliefs with values in context that determine behaviour. For example, two mothers value ‘family belonging’. Their sons get in trouble. One takes her son to the police because she believes he needs to learn a lesson, the other protects him because she believes that once in trouble with the police, it will be a stigma and start him down the wrong path. To understand our choices, we need to recognise our core values against our beliefs.

The extent to which this relates to team alignment is variable. On one hand, the very fact that each team member was were chosen for / agreed to be in the same team would indicate compatible values. However, if the team has problems and continues to do so after team alignment work, it would likely be about conflicting values (the need to manage values). If the team are in rational but not emotional agreement (there’s no shared passion or energy), this is probably also a values issue.

Wow. Interesting stuff, right? Thanks Jackie!

Mirror Mirror – the process that accelerates team alignment for improved performance and innovation. By enabling a better shared current reality between people with a shared goal, they make better, faster progress:

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