Why do values make a difference?
What happens if your boss or someone at work asks you to take short-cuts? Do you think this is a great idea and will save time and money? Do you think this will compromise your work or other issues you think are important, such as safety, health, legal regulations and so on? Do you feel able to say no or discuss it? Do you think your boss recognises the implications? Do you feel they just don’t get it? Do you feel your job may be under threat so you just need to go along with what you are asked? How stressed would you feel?
Values play a fundamental role in how we perceive and interact with the world, how we interpret events and other peoples actions and behaviours. Its not always obvious. Our values and beliefs are often a sub-conscious filter through which we interpret everything around us and so play a fundamental role in how we respond – in our thoughts and behaviour. This sub-conscious influence sometimes leads to apparently irrational behaviour and decisions that are at best not constructive and often destructive or disastrous.
We acquire our values and beliefs over our entire lifetime, accepting the ways of our culture, our parents, our teachers and others around us. They may have been extremely valuable at the time we took them on board, but sometimes they outlive their usefulness and lead to behaviour that is no longer helpful in our current situation. Time spent reflecting on knowing our values and beliefs and evaluating how useful they continue to be to us right now, is time well spent.
Raising our conscious awareness of our values and beliefs gives us much more control over our personal thoughts and behaviour and makes us more aware of why we feel the way we do about a situation or person. It guides our choices and decision making at a conscious level and helps us to recognise when a choice does actually exist, even if the alternatives are somewhat unpalatable. We might recognise when our subconscious hijacks the decision making process when we feel there is only one way forward and no options.
So how does this extend to a team or whole organisation? Jeremy Darroch, chief executive of BSkyB, gave two great examples at the recent Institute of Directors Annual Convention. Fostering the mindset “Believe in Better” has created a culture where everyone at BSkyB applies innovative thinking to everything they do every day, right across the business from product development to accounts. Maintaining a consistent value set and core beliefs guided Procter and Gamble to move quickly and grow sustainably from a small enterprise selling soap up the Ohio River to a global company.
When values are a key component of strategy and are motivating – made real and alive from the executive team down, not just words on a page – they give people guidance in a way that rules and procedures alone do not. The strength comes from a clear value set that reaffirms the behaviour, actions and decisions made by all in the organisation. Getting everyone in the organisation involved and knowing how their role connects with the company success, focuses and guides everyone in one direction, even when facing new situations that rules and procedures do not (yet) cover. In contrast, consider the recent banking debacle – once people crossed the line beyond the rule book, they could and did go anywhere. In a rapidly changing world, consistent values and beliefs guide the way to sustainable success.