Values are very personal, and more than that, our true, core values are not that easy to identify. If you ask someone what their values are, nine times out of ten, they will rattle off a list of values that they believe are important to them. It maybe that these values are important to them or at least they believe they are, but are they their core values though. Values are what drive us and determine what we are willing to invest energy in or avoid.
In order to uncover a person’s real values, a process needs to be followed, which would identify a person’s core values. This process would include asking question within a certain context to elicit their beliefs, needs and core values. An example of how the team could achieve this is provided below. A further exercise is required to determine which of he values elicited, would be their most important values, in this context. On average, each person has 12 core values. The order or hierarchy of these values is dependent on the context. More than this, each person has their own criteria for their values. Your value of respect is different from mine. Even if we share the same value, there could still be dissonance, which wouldn’t necessarily be obvious based on the fact that we believe we share the same values. Our emotions are directly linked to our values and, as a result, we are deeply affected when our values are threatened. Our values form the basis of our beliefs and needs. All three are interrelated. Our beliefs and values drive our behaviours.
How does this all relate to a team or organisation? If a team can share the same values, and understand and share the criteria of each of their values, the importance of a mission or goal is far less.
Too often we hear that the team’s values are X, yet the members of the team, for reasons that they may not be able to express, feel dissonance. As mentioned above, if any of the team’s values contradict another team members’ values, the team member could feel that their values are threatened. This results in dissonance with the team member/s and the team/each other.
So, as coaches or Scrum Masters, what can we do about this? Firstly, we can help teams collaborate on defining a shared set of team values. In a large organisation, this may not be possible or in fact not even practical to get values that are congruent with everyone. The values of the organisation could be nice sounding words. For these values to inspire the people, they need to be congruent. As an example, you may believe that respect is a value that is important to you. This statement could be true but does it fulfil your needs and beliefs in this context. Firstly, what is your criteria of respect. Secondly, in terms of working at an organisation, is respect high on your hierarchy of core values. You might find that, for example, autonomy in the context of the organisation you work for is more important. If autonomy was not one of the values that the organisation finds important, then you might feel dissonance with the organisation’s values.
It can be more realistic to help individual teams come up with a list of shared values. Identifying a list of values that the individual teams find important, followed by an agreed list of criteria, is a good place to start.The only way to elicit a person’s core values would be to discuss needs and beliefs within a certain context and to ask questions around these beliefs and needs. Once a list of values has been elicited, the values would then need to be ranked in terms of importance. The team could achieve this but would require one on one discussion with each team member. An alternative would be to have a discussion with the team and try and get the teams believes and needs and try and uncover the values that drive those needs and beliefs. Following on from there, you can get each team member to provide their own criteria for each value. The defined criteria of each team members values, should hopefully paint a picture of which values criteria overlap. You may need to uncover a few more values if your are unable to find common criteria. Once you have done this, you should have a list of values that would be congruent with the members within the team.
Once you have a set of team values, compare how these align to the organisation’s values. Ensure that you have the criteria for the organisation’s values to compare against the teams. If they are mostly aligned, great, get ready to be awesome. If the values are not aligned, and causing dissonance for people in the team, try and work out a strategy of how the team members could maybe deal with this. Maybe they can find a value lower down in their hierarchy of values, which is more closely aligned. Finding values with similar criteria isn’t easy and requires collaboration between teams. The outcome however is worth the effort. Aligned values mean that visions and goals generated, are better supported and aligned to everyone in the organisation.
Values are precious to us, and we protect them. Values drive our emotions and, as a result, affect everything we do. Values, beliefs and needs are all related and together drive our behaviour. Having a team share common values is very powerful.