One of the exercises we did at our Elite Influencer’s Summit in England was one involving values. It was very intense. We’d tell our stories and describe our avatars and the traits and characteristics we admired and those we hated. From those conversations, our values were made known. Because we were on a tight schedule, we only listed 10 values…the 10 most important things in our lives. If you look around, you will see companies, organizations, school systems, and governmental entities claiming these qualities: Respect, Integrity, Sevice, and Excellence. However, the qualities and values we revealed were through our actions, our speech, and our relationships. The ones claimed by the companies were chosen because they resonate with the clients, customers, constituents, and children’s caretakers. They were not derived from their actions.
If you were to interview the top echelons of these entities, you would discover they have 20-30 of the values that are really important to them, and though Respect, Integrity, Service, and Excellence might be on the list, they’re not very high on it.
Here’s how the exercise went. After discovering the values expressed by the person’s way of life, their thoughts, and their actions, they were put into a list. Then their coach had the participant choose between them to arrive at a prioritized list.
Integrity or Independence? Integrity
Integrity or Truth? Integrity
Integrity or Freedom? Freedom
Freedom or Honesty? Freedom
Freedom or alignment? Freedom…and so on and so on until all of the values are in order of priority.
Our guinea pig had to choose among 30 of these values and it took 1 1/2 hours to get to the definitive list. It was a grueling exercise! You could tell he was exhausted! Have you or anyone you know ever done an exercise like this? I’d be willing to bet that none of these executives have.
One of my values was impact. I was unique in that aspect. Another participant had Dependability for his #1. Another had Contribution. Given the choice of Honesty, Truth, or Integrity, most chose Honesty 1st. Given a choice of Respect, Alignment, or Loyalty, most chose Loyalty. It’s not that those traits aren’t important, it’s that they’re less important than others.
Looking through the Toastmaster posts on the Facebook page, I would infer that Service and Integrity are something desired more by the membership than by the Leadership of the organization. They are high on the complaint list! What kind of values do the Leaders seem to stress? Alignment, Loyalty, and adherence to cultural norms within the organization. Respect seems to be an accessory and Excellence is a bonus. How do you measure excellence? With a contest, right? It’s why they have the Olympic games and Spelling Bees. It’s why there are Michelin Stars and JD Powers awards. Yet, if TM could get rid of contests, they would in a flash. TM is a non-profit business that sells the promise of competence as communicators and leaders while providing materials for study. Do they produce good communicators and leaders? How would anyone know? Yet, their core values are Integrity (doing what they say they’ll do), Respect (showing appreciation and consideration, and treating people with honor and dignity), Service (providing support and aid to further the members’ goals), and Excellence (celebrating the best of performance, quality, and merit).
Look at all the other organizations that present themselves with those same values. Are these traits apparent in their behavior, their advertising, or their relationships with their clients or students?
When have you ever done a deep dive into your core values? If people could look at what you write about, how you express yourself, how you behave, what makes you happy and what makes you mad, the people you surround yourself with and those you shun, what conclusions would they draw about your values? I tell you, I was surprised when I did this exercise.
Mine were these:
Some of these values may not even seem like values to many people. This, of course, is not an exhaustive list, and more values may bubble up to higher priorities as I continue to live on this beautiful blue ball.
If you claim values, you better live them. If you choose values because they help you sell cars, Integrity, honesty, or truth isn’t even on your list. Remember, “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.” Ralph Waldo Emerson