Is it possible to “hold” values without owning them? Ask 10 people in the street whether they think honesty (for example) is a great value, and 9.5 of them will say yes. Ask the same 10 people whether they are always honest, and there will be fewer affirmations – that’s if they answer honestly of course 🙂
If a value is not owned then it’s just “nice”. It’s nice to think about, perhaps it even evokes pleasant feelings, but if I have not made it my own I will simply forsake it as soon as it costs me too much – and perhaps I won’t even miss it when it’s gone. It will be a valueless value.
How do we internalise good values? Perhaps even the language of value ownership is too weak, because it still sees values as part of what we have, rather than as part of who we are. In many ways, it’s a question of identity. Where do we draw our identity from? Which story are we living in, and what is our role in it? Beneath the surface of our espoused beliefs, where do our true loyalties lie?
I think this is such a great question. And a relevant one, because when we’re under pressure, as most of us are in times such as these, our true values or loyalties emerge. How many companies have really “nice” values, that no-one truely lives. My mother always told me: “Don’t do as I do, do as I tell you”, unfortunately that no longer works in business, now I wil only listen to what you say if you do it as well. Problem is that most leaders are like my mother, they have a “say-do” gap.