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The Organizational Values… of Myself

“Put your money where your mouth is.”

Or, to put it another way.

“If you’re not willing to accept the pain real values incur, don’t bother going to the trouble of formulating a values statement.”

A 2002 Harvard Business Review article by Patrick M. Lencioni begins by offering a great sample of strong, clear, corporate values.

“Communication. Respect. Integrity. Excellence.”

Where are they from, you ask?

enron“Coming up with strong values,” Lencioni writes, “and sticking to them—requires real guts. Indeed, an organization considering a values initiative must first come to terms with the fact that, when properly practiced, values inflict pain. They make some employees feel like outcasts. They limit an organization’s strategic and operational freedom and constrain the behavior of its people. They leave executives open to heavy criticism for even minor violations. And they demand constant vigilance.”

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a wonderful pair of sessions led by our Executive-in-Residence Paul Bianchi. He led us through an exercise taken from the book The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry C. Posner. The concept was simple, and not unfamiliar, but effective. You take a large list of values and quickly and instinctively narrow them down again and again until you have chosen a few values that are specific to you.

I’ve (A) thought about my values a lot before and can often reference them in conversations with friends, and particularly in what I guess I’ll call “mentorship moments”, frequently with younger adults than myself in a variety of settings.

I’ve also (B) had an opportunity to utilize my values in a leadership role in a work setting. Having run a small non-profit I was able to shape an office environment for which my values set the tone.

Finally, I’ve © been involved in strategic planning in which we try to understand the vision and goals of a previously existing organization and made decisions that were based on the perceived values of the history of the whole over our own individual values.

But what I haven’t done?

I haven’t envisioned an organization I will lead in the future, and for whom my own personal values will set the tone of my leadership, and the organization as a whole.

And, considering I’m getting an MBA and all, which could very well be renamed a “Masters in Business Leadership” in today’s environment, I figured what better time to really dive into this, and think a little about exactly what I want, and what matters to me, if I was in charge and building my organization from scratch. Play the game now… maybe reap the rewards later.

But then in Googling around before starting this article, I came across the quote Lencioni wrote.

“If you’re not willing to accept the pain real values incur, don’t bother going to the trouble of formulating a values statement.”

I felt the real pain, myself, of trying to find correct values for an organization for which I was taking over as a leader, values that didn’t exactly align with even my own, at times, but that I felt were right for the business. I often felt hamstrung by these values, and, in the end, I think part of the reason I left was that I found myself unable to comply with the own values and vision I had helped build. It just…wasn’t the right fit.

So I’m going to do this, not simply because it’s a valuable (pun intended) exercise for my own personal development during this time of questioning and exploration, but because when (not if) I am in a professional role again that requires me being clear on my own and my organization’s values, having written out my own values statement seems like a great way to really respect the tremendous weight they hold on top of them.

So, with that in mind, I’m going to make this a two-part blog, for anyone following along. I’ll start with just listing them tonight. And then I’ll sit with them a bit, and you can too if you like, if you are reading this you probably know where to reach me and if not find me on LinkedIn.

If you can spare a minute, let’s talk about them. I’m happy to do the same for you. Let’s poke at them. Make me defend them. I want to dive deep.

Because… what else am I here for? (And yes, I purposely left that “here” a little vague.)

Without further ado. Drumroll, please.

The Values of Daniel Student, Inc.

Curiosity

Helping Others

Joy

Learning

Listening