Why Values Matter (more than ever)

I read with great interest the open letter from Elizabeth Wood to IBM’s CEO in November 2016, where she explained the background for her resignation. Ms. Wood’s decision to leave her post without having a new position lined up was instigated by an open letter from IBM’s CEO to President-elect, Donald Trump.

Let me first be clear: This post is not about politics. It is about values.

Values alignment

From what I have read, Ms. Wood did not see alignment between either her own or IBM’s expressed values in the approach taken by CEO Rometty in offering her ideas for IBM collaborating with the new U.S. Administration in key areas.

In an interview with Forbes, Ms. Wood commented:  “No job is perfect, but her letter made me take a look at the work I was doing and say, ‘Why? What am I contributing to?’”

Similar considerations of personal values vs. company values and leadership actions prompted Mr. George A. Polisner to resign from Oracle in a public way.  These two high-profile examples highlight an underlying trend, which is the need for a growing number of people to find meaning and alignment between the work they do, the organizations they represent, and the personal values that define who they are and what is important to them.

The challenge I see in many organizations that try to take the effort of values-driven leadership and corporate culture seriously, is that this becomes a top-down driven project with insufficient employee involvement.  If the values of an organization are only visible in corporate presentations, while not recognized as being adhered to in the organization’s daily operations, this can have adverse effects on both employee morale and customer relationships.

Values defined

In Richard Barrett’s book “The Values Driven Organization” I found a short-hand definition of values that resonated with me:

“Our values reflect what is important to us. Who you are, what you hold dear, what upsets you and what underlies your decisions are all connected to your values.”

At Brainwave, we believe that our individual values are behind our attitudes and behavior.  We see a growing awareness and interest in the topic of “culture” as a source of competitive advantage among clients.  What makes up the culture of an organization?  The sum of all the individual attitudes and behaviors of our employees, as well we the processes and tools we put in place to support (or hinder) such behavior.  Therefore, the natural place to start when you want to build a strong culture in your team or organization, is to understand what motivates each individual by understanding their values.

Do you know what your values are?

If you are interested in learning more about what your values can tell you about yourself, I encourage you to take a free Personal Values Assessment.

This simple assessment takes only a few minutes to complete.  When we work with leaders, teams and organizations we bring additional tools and assessments to the process in order to help you explore and build the right values-driven culture for your organization.  Each client is unique, so custom facilitation is key.

Please feel free to contact us directly, or read more about what we do.