Guest post from regular contributor S. Chris Edmonds:
Some time ago, I had a conversation online with someone who disagreed with me. I enjoy dialog with people having differing viewpoints, especially if it is handled in a respectful manner (on both sides.)
This leader had read a post of mine (Surround Yourself With Values-Aligned Compadres) and tweeted, “I wish more people had values. Too few do!” I know what he meant. Many people don’t seem to act in alignment with any particular values. But I had a different take.
To me, everyone has values. Each person aligns to their values every day, and we can (sometimes pretty quickly) see what their values are.
I responded, “Everyone has values. Bullies have values. Teen gang members have values. They just hold values that are different than my own.”
The leader didn’t see it quite that way. In his mind, values were all positive. But values are defined as “a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.” Thus, a thug may “value” some power or material thing as more important than courtesy and respect toward a stranger. He or she is operating on values--they may be different than yours or mine, but they are values nonetheless.
My experiences with values alignment began formally four decades ago, in my YMCA days.
In the 1970's I was actively involved in values clarification. A couple of my bosses used values clarification in our work teams. I used it with my camp directors and counselors to ensure we were all on the same page with how we'd treat each other, how we'd treat our campers, and how we'd treat their family members each summer.
In all the values clarification sessions I ran (for literally hundreds of people)\ not one person failed to come up with their personal values. The lists varied, especially in how they defined them, but every participant was satisfied with their own list.
I also learned how values-aligned teen gangs are. I directed a YMCA national project that looked at what teens of “today” (then, early ‘80s) were seeking. That study found that the teens were looking for three things. First, to do “cool, different” things than what they did with their families; second, to belong to a group; and third, to do things with that group that advanced a meaningful purpose. These same three things are true for teen gangs. The values are often very different than those of other teams, but they still correspond to doing cool things, to belong, and to advance what is (to the gang) a meaningful purpose.
This data and my experiences have led me to believe strongly that everyone has values. We experience others' values in how we are treated and how we see them treat others. We experience them in decisions they make. We often question other’s decisions from a values standpoint. (Have you ever said, “I would never do that. I value my _______ too much to go that route!”)
The beliefs and principles we hold dear guide our individual plans, decisions, and actions. By formalizing them, we can quickly assess how well we are living them, and also assess how aligned the values of people in my life are with mine. This can help me make wise choices about who to hang out with, who to work with, and who to spend my life with.
S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant. After a 15-year career leading successful teams, Chris founded his consulting company, The Purposeful Culture Group, in 1990. Chris has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies since 1995. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including Amazon best sellers The Culture Engine and Leading at a Higher Level with Ken Blanchard. Learn from his blog posts, podcasts, assessments, research, and videos at http://drivingresultsthroughculture.com. Get free resources plus weekly updates from Chris by subscribing here.