Aligning Personal and Corporate Values
Are your values in alignment or are you wishing for more?
Often when trying to describe a personal vision I was asked, “What do you want to do with your life?” The one inquiring would then look at me with the expression that demands an instant answer. His or her eyes would be wide open glaring at every aspect of my uncomfortable being. His or her slight smile seems to say, “I know you are not going to be able to answer this question. Gotcha!”
When I offer the answer, “That’s a great question. I would love to move back into training and development,” I then explain I was a corporate trainer for four years and found my true passion. Interestingly, the original question loses its tension and the one who asked is surprised I first, know what I want, and second, state that I found a passion in doing something. After learning more about communication, persuasion, mediation, and leadership, I came to the conclusion that I indeed DO want to move back into training, however, this is only a small part of the picture. To paint the rest I must first look deeper. I need to ask myself, “Why do I love training? What aspects of training appealed to me? How does this make me love my work? Does this align with my personal values? What are my personal values.” Suddenly, the answer is daunting again and I no longer have the same confidence in my answer.
Reflecting on and drawing forth one’s personal vision is difficult. To do so requires great courage and self awareness. One must also be willing to stop all noise in his or her thoughts, be comfortable with one’s self, and be willing to examine the deep truth of his or her thoughts, actions, beliefs, and realities. To complicate personal vision further, I hold the belief that often we search for happiness and hope to find happiness in something arbitrary. For instance, one may think, “If I could just get that promotion things would be so much easier.” Happiness is not something we find as if searching for that long lost photo stashed in a box in our closet. Happiness is also not something we can purchase or have given to us. Happiness is something we must experience through the path and vision we set forth. Sure, purchasing that dream car or television or vacation will make us happy for some time. However, that happiness is temporary and not nearly as satisfying as the gift of happiness received when we accomplish our true vision.
Reducing "Noisy" Thoughts
How do you stop the
How does one find his or her personal vision? There are many ways just as there are many religions that focus on this same issue. For instance, Buddhism utilizes meditation to conjure answers. For this assessment, I utilized Senge’s The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook and its calculated reflection.
Being honest with one’s self while exploring vision is absolutely necessary or the conclusion reached will not be truthful. While visiting my own personal vision over the last few weeks I discovered many truths I already knew. I also discovered many I did not want. As a result, I had many conflicting emotions regarding my journey to a true vision. Most notably, two emotions were strong throughout my reflection. First, I felt light in the darkness that I have been living for some time. I again felt the joy of things I love. This joyous light was, and continues to be, a motivation for me to continue, especially when the second emotion, disappointment manifested itself. After allowing myself to experience the disappointment, I paused and remembered the Leaps of Abstraction, (Senge, 2006, p. 178).
By allowing my emotions to cloud my judgement, I immediately “leaped” to the conclusion that I am not good at what I do and should revisit my education. I came to this conclusion because I struggle with grasping leadership and do not feel the sense of satisfaction that I am becoming an expert in this field. After reflection of the material I am learning and my life’s gifts, I realized that I AM good and the resulting doubt was product of the journey to becoming a good leader. Society grants leadership to individuals based on false criteria. We value one who has connections, “likes” everyone, and tells us what we want to hear. Since I am not this person, it is only natural for me to feel inadequate as a leader. However, reflecting on all leadership classes, I never once was taught that these are the fundamentals to great leadership. Rather, they are the myth created through insecurities.
Expanding and Clarifying Vision
After examining my own personal visions I reviewed them to clarify what my true vision is. Reviewing the list and asking, “And what would that bring you?” over and over, allowed me to understand my true motivations. The visions I recorded were merely a method to achieve these motivations. After repeated (and repeated) refinement, I concluded that my personal vision is to obtain fulfillment, spirituality, security, and sense of accomplishment while contributing to others’ lives.
Developing a plan to get there is my next essential step in achieving my vision. Now that I challenged my mental model blocking my will to continue, developing a plan will propel me forward providing momentum to continue ready to face the next challenge.
Is My Right Hand Influenced By My Left Hand?
Reviewing my personal vision over the last few weeks gave me insight. I learned many aspects of judgement and I pored over my own employment situation. I asked myself, “Why am I so unhappy?” and “Do I have a bias keeping me from finding satisfaction at work?” After careful cogitation, I decided that I do have bias and this bias is causing me to distort my experiences and negatively change the outcome.
To understand my bias, I employed the Left Hand Column theory (Senge, 2006, p. 246). Recalling a recent conversation at work allowed me to examine what was actually said versus what I thought was said.
Examining my thinking awakened me and cleared the muddled subconscious thoughts constraining forward momentum. I deduced that I have a strong lack of trust which, in turn, distorts what I “hear”. During my conversation and interaction with my manager, I was attempting to strengthen my relationship with my manager. A week earlier, I pushed back regarding an issue that I felt was important. While pushing back, I was straight forward saying, among other things, “That answer is not acceptable.” My tone and conviction showed how important this topic is to me but in a corporate environment, could be construed as insubordination. I later recognized that my push back was unlike other conversations we had in the past. In order to be able to speak freely, my manager and I needed to visit how we communicate with one another, creating ground rules for effective communication.
Even with good intentions, I failed to completely strengthen our communication. Rather, I held back my true feelings about the topics discussed because I do not fully trust her intentions and what might follow. This mistrust prevented me from openly communicating my feelings and we were unable to form the intellectual partnership needed to truly propel our team to greatness. Unfortunately, until we experience high performing teams within our management, our sales team will never experience a high performing team.
I found myself utilizing this technique during subsequent conversations and am now examining the core of my (lack of) trust and how to overcome this obstacle. By first understanding and opening my ears to true(r) meaning, I am able to see positive intent and positive feelings follow. Following are more productive, honest conversations that allow us to strengthen our relationship and learn from one another. I look forward to even more progress and subsequent results from our team.
Values Alignment Scale
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It is said that companies have vision statements but, often, employees do not know what they are. In some cases, leadership is unaware of the vision. This lack of shared vision poses a problem for companies. Without a shared vision, employees cannot buy into the purpose of their work. Additionally, without a true vision, the company will not move in one direction. Rather, the company moves in many directions created by the visions of individuals. Sharing one, common vision allows employees to focus on the fundamental core values and grow the company in one agreed upon direction.
Aligning (existing) company values with (existing) personal values is difficult. In my current work environment, the espoused value is “being the best.” This is expanded further to include best product, best service, best people, and best corporate responsibility. Being the best is seen everywhere in company literature. For example, we start meetings and trainings with, “Being the biggest is not our strength. Being the best is our strength.” On the other hand, our values in action strongly indicate profitability to be our number one value. Increasingly, profit goals are set higher and higher, as they should in order for the company to grow, despite the last three years of record profits. To start 2013 all management took a training on shareholder value and how to drive shareholder value. The training discussed profitability and how we all contribute. A month later, we were trained on “Executing high value leadership.” This training focused on behaviors that drive profits. There was little focus on what it means to be the best.
Being the best is a personal value for me. I do not go into something with the intent of being average or mediocre. To name a few, I also value helping others, honesty, personal development, reputation, recognition, quality relationships, challenging problems and moral/ethical responsibility. The problem I have aligning these with my company’s value (profitability) is financial incentive is not one of my top values. Yes, I want my company to be profitable and I want financial success for myself. I do not, though, hold this as a top value. Rather, financial success is low on my list.
To best align my values with those of my company I found it important to find common values that contribute to the success of both me and my company. To do so, I looked at my work environment, leader conversations, published materials, and company actions. This was helpful to me because it outlined that even though our number one values do not align, we do, however, hold a lot of values in common.
My company strives to provide a leading benefits package for our employees. We also participate in multiple community outreach efforts to benefit those in need. These two examples of behavior illustrate the values of helping others and moral responsibility which I value highly. After aligning this value, I realized my company and I share this value in more ways than these two examples. For instance, when a customer faces an unforeseen event, we often work to help them, even if doing so is outside of our guidelines or reduces profit. We also work diligently during disasters to not only resume our services, but help employees and the public affected. This is done through relocation assistance, financial assistance, immediate community outreach with supplies, and free services.
Both, my company and I, highly value reputation. I find myself extremely passionate about my own reputation and, whenever threatened, I fight to maintain and improve my reputation. I recognize this because I become extremely defensive and angry when my reputation is challenged. On the flip side, my company works hard to be recognized as the leader in our industry. We are very careful what advertising we use. Competitors often directly challenge each other in advertising. My company, however, makes a strong effort to not disparage the competition. We, instead, value pointing out our differences and why we believe we are better. We also hold very high standards on our appearance. Only recently did we change our dress code to a more business casual look. We valued the professional appearance a shirt and tie invokes. We also are meticulous regarding store appearance. The standard is that it looks new every day. Our CEO demonstrated this when he climbed a ladder to change a light bulb citing “It is important to me.”
These two examples of aligned values allowed me to challenge my mental model that our company is the “one percent” of Americans with top income. I recognize that we are very profitable and continue to support those efforts but also recognizing the positive aspects allows me to understand that my company does share some of my values. Actions of individual employees cannot dictate my entire opinion of my organization. Rather, I understand I must look at the full picture with strategic thinking to understand what really is going on. Allowing myself to look outside of my circle of influence gave me the opportunity to understand that my values do align with my company’s and we can share a successful working relationship, even if only temporary until such time I achieve my own personal vision.
© 2013 Bradley Hughes