Everyone has Values

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

I responded, “Everyone has values. Bullies have values.
Teen gang members have values. They just hold values that are different than my

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

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

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
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