We interpret values from behaviors. Peeling a banana, I noticed the Lion King had replaced the usual bar-code sticker. While reading my paid digital subscription to a local newspaper, a distracting ad for dresses pops up and flashes two times per second. My television news update pauses as Graham Nash’s lyrics tout the hospital’s heavenly services.
Three steps to great values:
A. Expose your culture. Include your people in sessions exploring the nature of your organization. Most will have forgotten your values or have pent up frustration with the culture. Effective leaders and facilitators encourage divergent opinions and frank observations. If the room is quiet, it’s not working. If the discussions pour into the hallway, you’ve got something good. Ask about how you treat each other and how you treat customers.
B. Use Rolestorming for creative options. Ask people to play a role and then offer various examples of values from that role. An effective use of rolestorming asks attendees to play saint, sinner and winner roles to scoop up creative ideas on the topic at hand. A leader or facilitator might ask them to start by listing the values from a well-rounded and respected company. Use the name of the firm — even the individuals involved. Next, ask the team to play the role of an unscrupulous firm that cheats and deceives customers. Believe it or not, wonderful insights come from attendees generating ideas from the role of an unscrupulous player.
Finally, whoever is leading the meeting asks the team to imagine the values of a win-at-all-costs organization. This is somewhere in between the saint and sinner roles. When this session is well-run, you emerge with an innovative and creative array of values. Often, a group will plow right into voting for best options. With values however, now is the time to let it rest as people process the list.
C. Vote and narrow list of values. This is a critical part on your way to constructing a small list of values that your team will honor. With a time interval our thoughts and emotions settle. A second meeting, however difficult logistically, is the perfect time to quickly vote to narrow the broad list down. All voting is in private and on paper. Number each item and give people several votes each. After the votes are tallied a smaller, manageable and reasonable list (10-15) emerges — and everyone has participated. Don’t make the mistake of opening a discussion on a 50-item list. After discussing and even arguing, take a second or third written and private vote on the best values for your firm. Tally the results and announce the four to six winners.
Movie ads on bananas, flashing interruptions in paid digital content and idealized hospital nirvana smells of arrogance, desperation or deception. From start up to established leader, the wise organization gets full participation for values that matter, giving veterans and new employees a road map for dignity in action and behavior. All this, while revealing to the customer a truer picture of what will happen when they do business with you.
If your only aim is profit — who needs values? A single short-term focus rarely requires true caring for employees — and they know it. A mad dash for the money leaves little room for the actual human customer — and they know it, too. The decision to be honorable with your employees and customers will be a hard-fought conference room brawl. Otherwise, just admit that you either don’t have values or you’ve forgotten them.
Good values announce what everyone might expect at each touchpoint with your firm. Great values dictate what everyone actually receives — even while eating, reading or healing.
Rick Griggs is a former Intel Corp. training manager and inventor of the rolestorming creativity tool. He runs the 10-month Leadership Mastery Academy. firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-690-7327.