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As I use this Covid19 time to ‘sharpen the saw’ as Stephen Covey exhorts us, I’m loving reading the latest edition of The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes & Posner. They’ve been researching for decades now on how to make extraordinary things happen in organisations.

There’s so much talk all the time around organisational values and they’re important of course – provided that they’re real and not of the vanilla variety that we see so often accompanying organisational mission statements.
What’s really bowled me over is Kouzes & Posner’s research showing the vital importance of our personal values as leaders – in fact they found that leaders who are clear on their own values delivered as much as five times greater returns for their organisations than those who are unclear on their values or not operating to any particular compass.

So what are values anyway? Essentially your values tell us who you are – what really matters to you personally – when we connect with our values they act like a North Star for us and they act also as a magnet for enabling commitment, trust, and loyalty from others.
Values are enduring ideas about the worth or importance of people, concepts, or things. They motivate our behaviour and guide evaluations and decisions. Living in congruence with our values energises us too and enriches our lives and our sense of meaning and contribution in the world.

Values are typically formed when we’re quite young – from childhood experiences, particularly adverse experiences, from our social context, the prevailing religious ethos in our family – even the historical forces experienced by our parents or ancestors can influence our values as can gender and other expectations.Values - North Star
Our unexamined values may never have been consciously adopted by us – we may have accepted them from outside or they may even have served us well at a point in our lives but no longer be helpful to us now.

Not all values have equal rank for us – they form a hierarchy – When I do a FOCUS values exercise with clients they often choose 15 or 30 values that are important to them on first assessment but it’s when we narrow down to the top 3 to 5 that it all ‘clicks’ for them. These are the values they’ve been living their lives by, their True North.

Sometimes the exercise leads to a re-affirmation of values – where the client feels a sense of personal power, commitment and direction as they honour their values in all aspects of their lives.
Sometimes there’s a realisation that they’re not living in harmony with a key value and that it’s giving rise to stress and discontent.

Often people are honouring a value that served them well at one point in their lives but that no longer serves them. For example, a value around loyalty can serve you well when those around you merit that loyalty and respond similiarly – conversely loyalty may not serve you well if you give your loyalty too easily, to too many, or to folk who have abused your loyalty in the past. Equally a value around ‘working hard’ may motivate excellence and growth – or it can lead to ‘working hard’ for the sake of it – perhaps rejecting either consciously or unconsciously that which comes easily. I recall someone who had a deep value around ‘open door’ availability – this worked so well in earlier career stages but as she was rapidly promoted she became swamped as she honoured her ‘open door’ value – she helped everyone at the expense of getting her own work done and her part of the organisation began to struggle. It was a genuine shock to her when she realised that her top value was tripping her up.

Coming back to the role of our personal values in leadership, Kouzes & Posner have found that to become an exemplary leader you need to know your values, what matters to you – it’s a foundational step to finding your unique voice as leader. It turns out that linking our personal values to our reasons for leading and being involved in our organisations and being able to share that with the people we lead is vital.

The second element that super charges the commitment of those we lead is around asking them how they get to honour their own personal values/what matters to them in the workplace and building alignment then around organisational values. This part is vital – not imposing the organisational values parrot like or on paper only but creating the space for your people to find alignment between their own values and organisational values that all commit to live by. In this way organisational values enhance and honour personal values leading to significant uplift in organisational commitment of the people who report in to you. And up to 5 times uplift in your personal contribution to your organisation.
Worth checking out!

If you’d like to make extraordinary things happen in your organisation – or if you’d like to supercharge your own sense of meaning and purpose – why not book a 1:1 FOCUS Coaching session to explore your values.
We work with you online and you get to choose Miriam or Betty to coach you through an uplifting exploration of your values. We will have a 15 minute phone call to get to know you a little in advance so that we can get straight in to exploring your values for our FOCUS Values Session.

Betty O’Callaghan
Partner, Mojo For Leaders.

Mojo For Leaders provides a suite of online support for leaders who want to ensure that they are at their best in meeting today’s challenges such as their Platinum Thinking Partnership, CLARITY Thinking Sessions, CLARIFY & CONTRACT Team Workshops and FOCUS Decision Making Session.