Values LeaderShift 1 – What’s your story?
Great leaders are individuals who have successfully developed (or taken over) a story that appeals to the values of their followers.
A leader needs to know and understand his or her own values and the values of their followers.
You do not necessarily need to know the detail of their values, but some real knowledge will greatly help you weave the story that will work best.
Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying “You can please some of the people all of the time, or all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”
And that is probably the issue that many leaders face. Each individual in your team, your organization, your community, even your family – has their own set of personally held values and their own hierarchy of those values.
Let’s consider a fairly typical situation, one that I have heard in slight variations many, many times from leaders I have worked with:
“In my team I have 8 direct reports, one person is a real star performer – always hard working, always achieves the goals and targets. One person is always calling in sick, looks miserable all day, just about makes the target, one is a real low performer and complains about too much work. The rest, are OK. I’ve tried everything but what can I do about these two low performers?”
This informs us several values of the leader.
- That performance or is important for them.
- That to be seen to do hard-work is important.
- That they are not keen on people who look miserable and complain.
- That they value doing something about the situation and are willing to learn.
Whilst you would benefit from more information to be more certain, the leader’s values might map thus:
|Desire to help others||
|Willing to learn personally||
For the two “low-performers” – whatever their personal values, it is likely that their own hierarchy of values does not include ‘Achievement’ at such a high level. It may be that ‘Self- direction’ is low also.
In such situations, the responses I have heard in one-to-one coaching sessions form ‘low-performing’ staff is myriad but most show a core theme when asked about their performance at work.
- Most frequently: “I don’t see/understand why this is so important.” And that’s right; they do not see it or understand it. The leader may not be communicating the value of performance to them.
- Often: “I try to do the job but I don’t ‘have the right support/tools/resources.” This may or may not be accurate and it is the leader’s role (as manager) to ensure that the right resources are available and how to get them and use them.
- Too often: “There’s nothing wrong with my performance, it’s the market/ environment/ economy/ etc.” Shifting blame to something outside of one’s personal control is possibly a favourite ‘excuse’ and in my experience and with further probing, this usually relates to either a security value (if I blame someone else, I’ll remain secure), or a hedonistic value (I don’t gain enjoyment from this, or I dislike doing this, and I feel better if I blame someone else for my failure to achieve).
At this point I want to stress that understanding your own values and those of others is NOT about judging the merits of those values. One individual’s values are not better than another person’s values – they may be more aligned with your own and thus you would consider them to be ‘better’, but they have worked well so far for that individual. Once we begin to know and understand another person’s value we can weave our story to appeal to them.
Make your “story” compelling