I often use Senge’s list of personal values as a starting place for working with groups and organizations about their values.
Starting with each person’s individual picture of what is most important to consider and what guides them in their making decisions personally and professionally. Then moving through a process that gets at the group’s values and the implications of those values and how they will live out those values.
This process of collective value discovery has profoundly changes the depth, adoption rate, understanding, and impact of the values exercise in organizations. It becomes the foundation in which the strategy and infrastructure are built. It also becomes the litmus test for future decisions holding the organization accountable for who they are striving to be.
Many organizations list values on their website, on the wall at the entrance of their offices, or even on the back of their business cards. But often the people who work in those organizations or systems did not participate in creating those values, nor are they connected to the meaning of those values. It is often confusing for them and the public when the organization does not live by those values. They become inauthentic and even more distant for the people in the organization.
It is also risky for leaders to be truly transparent about what is guiding their decision-making, especially if its money. Its our American culture that wants to act as if we have higher standards than making money and are driven by more altruistic ideals than economics.
Sometimes we are and it does not negate that we are doing business in a capitalistic system that measures value by the thing we have come to call money. This applies to all systems, businesses, religious organizations, government agencies, nonprofit and philanthropic organizations.
Then the question becomes how else do we measure our success, make decisions, and share what’s also important in our society? It’s the values we live by.
The real values that influence how we show up, how we think, how we live. Being real about them even if we aren’t so proud of them is an important step to creating an authentic organizational culture. It removes the mystery of decisions that come down from leadership.
Authentic values help explain and make congruent an individual’s or organization’s actions. Now if you aspire to a higher set of values than “we are in business to make money” say an authentic triple bottom line that measures success by people, profit and impact for instance, then the choice is how to begin to consciously shifting that culture and those values (both the organizational values and individual values) with intention to something everyone can be proud of and that make decisions better and create an impact that is more to the organization’s liking.