Most organisations have a set of values statements. Many of these do not reflect reality as displayed in the behaviours of people within the organisation. For example…’we value working collaboratively’ is displayed on the wall but people are told “do it my way or else” by managers; deriding other areas of the business is effectively endorsed when people are not ‘called’ on the behaviour.
We had a fun day on Thursday running our ‘Storytelling for Business Leaders’ workshop in Sydney. The group chose ‘values in action’ as one of the story patterns they wanted to examine in detail. We came up with four questions you can ask to help identify the values at work in organisations:
- Think about a time when a manager made a tough decision, and did ‘the right thing rather than the easy thing’. What happened?
- When have you seen someone ‘cross the line’ and they were ‘called’ on it. Alternatively, have you seen people ‘cross the line’ without being called.
- When have you felt uncomfortable about something your boss has done?
- When have you felt proud to work for this company?
Can you think of other questions that could help explore an organisation’s values?
I also related an example of a values in action story from our workshop in Brisbane in August.
A company introduced a new health and safety policy for mobile phone use while driving. The policy was “engine on, phone off”. Some time after the policy was introduced the company did a random call-around of about 50 employees. A senior manager answered his phone while driving. The response was “turn around, return your vehicle, give the keys to reception and clear your desk. Your employment with this company is over”. The rationale was that the manager could not help enforce a policy that he was abusing himself.
For me this story says very clearly ‘we value health and safety’. However, the story didn’t seem to be well received by the workshop participants, possibly because firing the manager seemed a little draconian. What do you think?
About Mark Schenk
Mark works globally with senior leadership teams to improve their ability to communicate clearly and memorably. He has been a Director of Anecdote since 2004 and helped the company grow into one of the world’s leading business storytelling consultancies. Connect with Mark on: