Values and Beliefs are two words we use to describe what is important to us. At a personal level these are the things that shape how we work in the world. Despite any misconception values can change over time and are impacted by what is going on in our lives. Ask anyone with a sick relative how they value health and it will have become more important – at least for a period of time. Values and beliefs are the foundation upon which we build our way of looking at the world but how much time do we spend trying to understand these elements?
In an attempt to get a clearer picture of my values I used a web-based system called Valuesonline first in 2006. While the system did a good job of presenting competing values and having me rank them against each other the real impact was when the facilitator had me use stories to explain these values. It was then that I realized that mentoring was a significant value. I knew that mentoring was important but I thought that it was just something that I did well. It turns out that my actions were simply a reflection of something that I held important as a value. Like some method actor getting clear on “my motivation” this was extremely helpful to understanding “me”.
Beliefs on the other hand, seem to be harder to capture. Beliefs seem to be the thing that comes out after an exhaustive discussion where there is conflict. Usually on the surface there is rationalization after rationalizaton when behaviors are being examined. But underneath the explanations there is usually a statement like, “I just believe that…(complete the sentence)”. One belief that I have seen many times is the resistance to self-promotion. We have all seen people that seem to do well because they do something small and then amplify that so much that you would think they had split an atom.
People who don’t believe in self-promotion might have a hard time telling you anything that is going well. I remember one employee who could not bring herself to tell me about anything that was going right in a review of the business. If you were to believe her the world was coming to an end. After quite a bit of frustration on my part we finally got to a conversaton about beliefs and we had to have a signifcant conversation about the balance required. I was not looking for rainbows and sunshine but it was important to me that we feel some progress. A clear description of the goal and our progress towards that goal did not have to miss out the impediments and challenges. I just needed a balanced view. Her resistance to this was based on seeing people get promoted who were great at kissing up and she just didn’t believe in that.
The Expectations Challenge
A manager’s values and beliefs drive their actions and expectations. An employee’s values and beliefs drive their actions and expectations in a similiar manner. Often when the manager’s expectations are not met by the employee’s actions the common method is to sit down and restate the expecations. If that doesn’t work an excalation of restating might happen and eventually a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) might be implemented which highlights the outcome (firing?) if the behavior doesn’t change.
It has been my experience that in situations like this the real discussion is about values and beliefs. They say that most of our actions are motivated by emotions. So, getting to the real conversation, perhaps one where the emotions get real, is the only way to shift perspective. I am not talking about forcing someone to change their beliefs. But, by exposing the belief and highlighting the relationship to the unwanted behaviors the choice becomes much clearer.
Creating My Integrity
I have become aware that when my life does not look like a good reflection of my values I do not feel good about myself. A great day for me is full of mentoring. I value mentoring and when I represent that in great conversations that get to beliefs and purpose I feel whole and strong.
What are your values? How do you see them show up in your day? When you look at a great day (not the ego kind of great day) can you find a relationship between your values and your behaviors? This journey is a journey inwards and it is a journey to our personal integrity.