Why do organisations find it challenging to manifest their organisational values in their actions?

By Senthiyl S S G, Director (Consulting), Arbinger Singapore/Malaysia | November 8, 2016

One of the key pillars to drive culture and performance in organizations is identifying and nurturing the right values.

While some values could be technical or functional (e.g., “low cost” for a budget airline), most values are soft and behavioral traits (e.g., teamwork, respect, integrity, etc.)

A lot of organizations in striving to nurture these values (i.e., soft and behavioral values), invest a lot of effort in defining what these values are, and also describing the behaviors that if demonstrated will be a great indication that the values are being lived or demonstrated.

The questions we need to ask are these: (1) How effective are we in nurturing these values with these approaches? (2) What continues to be a challenge?

Where organizations have been successful in nurturing values, we need to ask, what was the key factor that enabled this successful nurturing of values. In all likelihood, the primary reason for the success would have been how the leaders personally embrace and demonstrate these values themselves.

Many organizations however, have not been successful. Often we hear people using values as a weapon or tool in their pursuit to defend their actions.

E.g., “My values are different from this person! So it is not easy to work with him.” In this case, values are used as a tool to justify my lack of performance or action.

Or “My leaders don’t practice the values, so I don’t.” Here values (in this case the value of “leadership and role modelling”) are used as weapons to accuse others of their failing.

In both cases the person making these claims is not demonstrating the values that he has a conviction for, values that would contribute to the betterment of the situation and invite a better response from the stakeholders involved.

The person making these claims (or accusations) is now demonstrating the very thing he is accusing others of failing to do.

So, what can we do about this?

How do we help individuals and leaders tryly strengthen the living of thier values in the spirit they were intended?

A fundamental principle governs who and how we are and in what spirit we demonstrate our values. The principle is: “Life is in Relationship.” As I live, I am always in relationship.

It is how I am in relationship that matters to how I am able to live my values.

I can either be in relationship with people (i.e., the Outward Mindset) or I can be in relationship with objects (i.e., the Inward Mindset).

When we are unable to demonstrate our values in the spirit they were intended, Arbinger says we have an inward mindset. In the inward mindset, I regard others as objects and am primarily focused on my needs and often at the exclusion of others.

When we do demonstrate our values in the spirit they were intended, Arbinger says we have an outward mindset. In the outward mindset, I regard others as people just like me with comparable needs, aspirations, worries, burdens etc. I am mindful of the impact I have on others in whatever I do and pursue.

If how we give meaning to and demonstrate values is a function of our mindset, can we truly be optimally effective in nurturing the living of values by focusing on the behavioral aspects alone?

What we need is a strategy that nurtures the outward mindset where we are naturally inclined to demonstrate values in the spirit they were intended.

The approach to nurture the outward mindset is the focus of Arbinger’s ground-breaking work and workshops and consulting.

It involves (1) equipping individuals with a refreshing yet simple language that empowers individuals to heighten their self-awareness about their mindset, thereby inviting them to feel more responsible for the situations and experiences they have, (2) empowering them with tools to turn their mindset outward, and (3) learning additional tools to help turn the mindset of their teams outward.

For more information, please try to read one of these books written by The Arbinger Institute: Leadership and Self Deception or The Anatomy of Peace or The Outward Mindset. Another book written by Arbinger’s founder, Dr C. Terry Warner called Bonds That Make Us Free is also a great book.

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