ISSUE 47 ISSN 1712-468
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Why You Do What You Do

The realm of Politics fascinates me.

As a Canadian kid, I watched with intrigue the Republican and Democratic Presidential Candidate debates and selection conventions, starting in the Nixon era. I did the same with Canadian politics.

As a teen, while my friends were busy scouring the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated, I subscribed to the Hansard service to get transcripts of the debates from the House of Commons in Ottawa, Canada. I remember having our Member of Parliament address our Grade 11 Social Studies class. In the question period, I asked him a pretty serious question based on a statement he had made in the House of Commons. At first, he was taken aback; afterward he told me how impressed he was that I had taken such an interest in politics.

You would think that by now I would have taken a run at political office, but I haven’t. I still enjoy politics, but there’s no way I am going to put myself or my family through the scrutiny required to run for a government seat. I don’t need people bringing up something I may have said, done, or smoked 30 years ago and manipulating it to show I am unfit for office.

Today I watched Newt Gingrich on CNN, taking reporters to task over the airing of the “open marriage” comments made about him by an ex-wife and the fact that the press didn’t use any rebuttal witnesses. Didn’t the press think the economy was a tad more important than what an ex-wife was saying that may or may not be true?

I understand the reasoning behind the attitude of the press. We want women and men leading our country who bring with them solid values. We are looking for people who have a core belief system that is not going to change with the weather.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenges."

I believe values are a vital part of an individual and an organization. In fact I would say values are the very threads that make up the fabric of a person and a company. We need a clear understanding of people’s core values—both at an individual and a corporate level. It is costly to all parties when core values are not articulated or exposed at the outset. Without that knowledge, we open the door to serious problems later.

So what are core values?

Core values are not the same as your vision for your company or for yourself.

  • Vision answers the question, “What are we going to do?”
  • Values answer, “Why do we do what we do?” Values are the reason behind each decision made, each problem solved, and each goal set.

Nor are values the same as strategy.

  • Vision describes what we are doing.
  • Strategy tells how we are going to do it. Strategy states the plan of action for accomplishing the vision.
  • Values answer, “Why are we doing this?”

A standard definition of values commonly referenced by researchers is that of Milton Rokeach.

“A value is an enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or end-state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end-state of existence. A value system is an enduring organization of beliefs concerning desirable modes of conduct or end-states of existence along a continuum of relative importance.”

Sorry . . . that’s way too cerebral to be a working definition for me.

To me, a core value is a constant, passionate, and sacred core belief that drives me to do what I do.

You may be sitting there thinking, So what? Why should I care about values?

Take a look back in your life where you and another person disagreed. What caused the clash? When you dig deep enough, you will discover that your values and the values of the other person were in conflict.

What caused you to leave that last job? Sure, the boss was irritating and the leadership team was comprised of morons, but I can guarantee that if I asked you the right questions and we had the time, we would determine that one of your core values was not being met or was being challenged. Instead of staying and fighting for what you believed, you left.

What people don’t understand is that joining an organization has much in common with getting married. A wise couple knows their values will shape and drive their marriage. If they share only a few common values, they are destined for much heartache and suffering and the likelihood of divorce.

Ken Blanchard stated that 21st century leaders will not lead by the authority of their position, but by the ability to articulate a vision and the core values of their organization. (Aubrey Malphurs, Values Driven Leadership, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004, page 9)

Organizational values exist on two levels.

  • One is the individual level. People in general have a set of core values that influence much—if not everything—they do.
  • The other is the corporate level. Every organization has a set of core values that guides what it seeks to accomplish. Unfortunately over the last few years, we have seen what happens when values go awry.

An understanding of the values of the individual and the organization is key to an extended successful career and business.

Malphurs (on page 13) lists 10 essential reasons why core values are so important. Here are 5 of them. I won’t go into detail, but as you read and think about it, you’ll have to agree with these premises.

  1. Values determine your company’s (and your) distinctives —what makes you distinguishable from the rest.
  2. Values communicate what is important.
  3. Values influence overall behaviour.
  4. Values enhance credible leadership.
  5. Values shape how you conduct business.

Many people go through life not really taking time to articulate what they value and why they do what they do.

So how do you determine a person’s value?

At Consulting Resource Group (CRG), we have an excellent tool called the Values Preferences Indicator. What makes this learning instrument so powerful is that it asks you to rate 21 prime core values against each other. By the time you are finished, you will have a very clear understanding of the values that are yours and the values to which you have been giving only lip service.

As an individual, I want to know the values of the organization where I am going to work. If my values cannot be met—or if they are not respected, I won’t be happy or very productive in my work and will soon go elsewhere.

Likewise, as a businessowner, I want to know my employees’ values. I want to ensure I am creating an environment where those values are being met. If I do that, chances are my business will be more successful than I could imagine.

Howard Schultz of Starbucks fame states, “You begin imprinting your values from Day One. Once the people of the company have absorbed those values, you can't suddenly change their world view with a lecture on ethics. It's difficult, if not impossible, to reinvent a company's culture.”

Here is more wisdom about values.

Your beliefs become your thoughts.
Your thoughts become your words.
Your words become your actions.
Your actions become your habits.
Your habits become your values.
Your values become your destiny.

Mahatma Gandhi

While it may be too late for some of our politicians to articulate clearly what they value, it is not too late for you or your company. Start the journey today with CRG’s Values Preferences Indicator.

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