The Power of Values in Leadership
Making the important link between values and behaviours
Values lead to thoughts, actions, behaviours and results. This is why organizations spend so much time defining them as misaligned values can lead to unhealthy conflict, resistance, persistence and many other behaviours that can be unproductive. World-wide, organizations, countries, religions, societies and families are built on a value system. They are the foundation of the future we create.
Considering that, how often do you as a leader discuss underlying values when managing ongoing performance issues in hopes to motivate lasting change?
Values guide actions. When coaching an employee on behavioural change, an area of discovery could be understanding personal values that might be getting in the way of the desired behaviour. Once the value barrier is discovered, you will likely see self-awareness unfold through eyes opening wide and shoulders dropping.
First, we need to consider the role of values in leadership. Many leaders struggle with empowering behaviours like delegating, holding others accountable and other important skills. Values are at the core of our good and bad behaviours. They are deeply rooted from past generations, our childhood and experiences. They are vital in dealing with life’s struggles and opportunities. What values might be standing in your way?
Why are values so informative in behavioural change? Changing behaviours can be difficult as they are habits initiated by our values since an early age. In understanding our core values, we are better able to evaluate whether they still make sense as an adult and if we need to change them. In doing so, we are better able to manage our emotions, triggers and how we communicate. Our behaviours become much easier to shift.
You have just been told to delegate more as you are working long hours and employee engagement scores have dropped. You had the proper training and realize how important it is. Reality is that you would rather not relinquish control and you feel your direct reports already have too much work.
In order to delegate more, we likely need to stop being right about not delegating and change the values that support our behaviours. There is a reason why we do what we do.
Steps to follow in shifting our values are:
- Identify what values might be at risk when doing something we are not used to like delegating more. It may be perfectionism, caring deeply about others or keeping the peace.
- Evaluate the root cause of those values and how they impact you and others today. Think childhood. How did they come about? You may discover stories like “I was always taught to figure things out on my own.” This might have led to you being controlling and believing that asking for help is a sign of weakness.
- Understand the impact of your values when leading others. Put yourself in their shoes. You may realize that your values no longer make sense in the role you have. In this case, employees may feel disempowered due to micro management and lack of decision making authority.
- Shift the value to something that will serve you and others. This value may shift to ones of trust and accepting failure.
- Test the success of the value by trying new behaviours and believing in them. Be gentle on yourself as this is something new and it may take a while for it to feel comfortable. Continue to remind yourself of your new value and eventually the old value that once worked should disappear.
Organization values are established to inform decision-making, goals and ultimately acceptable behaviours. It is no different with humans. Leaders that spend time developing and living by their values likely optimize performance, mitigate struggles and ensure the right people are on the bus.
Kwela’s Leading Self workshop helps leaders to discover and empower the values that strengthen potential.
Glen Sollors, Senior Consultant