Do you know what makes the members of your team tick? Ama Verdi-Ashton explains the role of values in our working lives, and how an understanding of these can boost your team on to greater success.
Ever taken a dislike to someone and not really known the reason why? How about constantly clashing with someone no matter what you try? There could be many reasons for this, I am suggesting that one of the reasons could be a clash of values. So what are values? Where do values come from? What benefits would we gain from being able to understand the values our team members live by? Could this understanding help us to influence our teams for greater success? In this article I will attempt to answer the above conundrums and also provide an easy way to help you identify the values of your team members. We have discussed in previous articles that ‘self awareness is power’ – understanding the value of values adds further weight to this statement. By recognising and identifying our own set of values and our team members’, we will prioritise and tap into what motivates us as people and also how to motivate others.
What are values?
Your values are those things in life that you consider to be important. They are made up of everything that has happened to you in your life: influences from parents and family, religious affiliations, experiences with friends and peers, your education and even what you have read. Values can be words that embody what’s important to us. They are intangible and complex and are linked to our beliefs about what’s good or bad, right or wrong. They are deeply held driving forces that help us prioritise what is important to us. One example is the hospital representative who was treated with scorn by other representatives because she did not want to spend the afternoon sitting drinking tea in the hospital cafeteria but actually wanted to see customers, in short, 'do her job'. Other representatives thought it was because she worked for a big company and felt they were beneath her. The truth, however, was in this lady's values. She believed in a fair day's work for a fair day's pay and that was her core value, so she felt it unfair to stop and use company time to sit and chat when there was work to be done. How about the team clown, the one who loves to joke and lark about – could it be a core value for him to have fun at work? He will work harder if the work is fun and enjoyable.
How do we experience values?
We experience values as strong emotional reactions. When our values are met, we feel fantastic and motivated to do more. When they are thwarted, we feel violated and think that people do not understand or care about how and why we work in a certain way. For example, the hurt we may feel when catching a member of our team gossiping about us, jars our core values of loyalty and respect. Or, on a more positive note, the sense of pride many of us may feel when working for a Fortune 500 company, taps into our core values of prestige, material benefits or security. There is no doubt that, in relation to work, values are what give purpose to a job. The effort and commitment a person gives to a job can be in direct proportion to their values. Another name for a value could be 'motivator'. Ergo, the representative employed by a Fortune 500 company works hard in her drive for results – after all, prestige means excellence to her. Values:
- motivate us
- are something we are prepared to give time and energy to
- are something we base our decisions on
- are experienced as feelings
- can combine with beliefs to form our attitudes
- influence our compatibility with people and situations
If you want to create the best team culture and get the most out of your individuals, then understanding what motivates them and how and why they do what they do will ensure strong leadership and peak performance. The key is to tap into their values. Using the example above of ‘prestige’ as a value, you can tap into this by using the right language in your conversations with that representative to help motivate them, i.e. “your work must be 100% as you are representing a Fortune 500 company”. You can tap into the value of 'material benefit' with a representative by using words like “you are working towards a pay rise”, “think of what you will buy with the bonus”. All human decisions are based on values and what needs to be done as a leader is for us to influence those decisions and get the most out of our people. Identifying values Here is a team exercise that will help you identify the values in your team. Do this with a peer to identify your own values. It is also extremely useful to do this with your own manager as it gives a greater understanding of what makes them tick. This works well with your team at an area meeting. In addition, a fantastic spin-off from this exercise is a team contract. This will fall out of identifying the team’s values and can be a contract that you and your team live by. The advantages are that:
- the people that work for you believe they are team who are gelled together
- a contract creates a strong team spirit
- the contract gives them transparency and openness
- people know where they stand and what is expected of them based on their values
- they know if someone breaks the contract, it is there in black and white and can be discussed and rectified.
The values exercise
Objectives: To understand the teams’ values and to derive a team contract Materials Needed: Flip chart, Post-it notes.
1. Prepare your flip chart. On one page write Question 1 (Q1) – ‘What is important to you about being in a team?’ On next page write Question 2 (Q2) – ‘What is MOST important to you about being in a team?’
2. Split team into pairs.
3. Explain that each pair need to ask Q1 of each other. Only do Q1 at this stage. Get individuals to push when asking the question by asking “what else?” Aim to get at least four or five values down. Some example answers may be: 'pulling together', 'being the best', 'having fun', 'learning from each other', 'being honest', ‘being excellent’, ‘having a friendly team’, ‘respect’, etc.
4. Now get the pairs to use the lists of values extracted and ask Q2. This is about getting the individuals to really think about which of these values is THE MOST important. Each individual needs to come up with at least three TOP values that they consider most important about being in a team.
5. Get pairs to put these values onto Post-it notes and stick onto the flip chart.
6. Leader to discuss what surprised the individuals, what their thoughts are around what they put and why certain values are important to them. If there are similar values, could this explain why they all get on so well, or vice versa? Finally, will they do anything differently as a consequence of what they have learned about each other?
7. Cluster similar values together on the flip chart.
8. Ask the team which ones are the most important to them as a team. Which ones do they contract to live by? What behaviours can be demonstrated through these values? See example below: Value Behaviour Working together Contract to recognise strengths and utilise them. Contract to meeting once a month as a team, keep in touch via email or phone once a week. Honesty Trust and confide in team members, deal with conflict when it arises in a professional respectful manner. To be the best Always demonstrate a positive ‘can-do’ attitude. Constantly review and evaluate capabilities. Having fun Contract one team-building event per quarter. Work-life balance Contract to ensure no phone calls after six pm or no emails on a Friday. The list is about you and your team so can be whatever you and your team deem to be important.
9. Write your contract on the flip chart – five or six team values on the contract work best.
10. Get one of your team members to take the responsibility of printing the contract out and laminating for team members to keep. TIP FOR SUCCESS – Share your own values with your team so they can understand what motivates you!
Reaping the benefits
Identifying values helps us to understand what makes each other tick. There are huge benefits for you as a leader. For example, if you know that it is important for one member of your team to feel they are contributing to society in some way, you can motivate them by showing them what the drug you are selling is doing for patients, thereby driving them to success. A good self-coaching tip is to ask yourself these questions:
- What is the value of this team member?
- What language can I use to tap into this value and motivate this individual?
The thought behind this is well worth the effort - the results will speak for themselves. In summary, therefore, we now have an understanding of what values are and how important they are to us as individuals. We also have some idea of where they come from and how we experience them. We can identify our values as individuals and as a team to help to build strong team spirit and also motivate for success. We also have a team contract that is not just based on words out of a business book, but based on the values of each individual member of the team. How powerful is that? In addition, by continually re-evaluating and striving to understand your peoples’ values, you will influence the decisions they make at work and most definitely distinguish excellence from the average in all interpersonal interactions and impact. Good luck and have fun!