It has been over 14 months since I have been able to sit amongst my books.
You see, my wife and I sold our house in town of 21 years and moved to a one-bedroom apartment while we continued our plans to build a new home designed by my wife’s brother, Dan. Well, one delay led to another and we ended up firing our first builder and signing a contract with a second general contractor months after we had intended to start building. All this occurred while my books, many on anthropology, sociology, philosophy, management, and art collected over decades of study and research, sat in tightly packed boxes in our garage.
I had kept out a few books to reread, like Julian Jaynes’s 1976 mind-bending The Origin of Consciousness in the Break-down of the Bicameral Mind, but the majority of these volumes were kept locked away for what I had hoped would be a brief period.
As part of a leadership team of a former employer, I was told to read a book with a seemingly trite title of Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? authored by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones and published by the Harvard Business Review Press. It was essentially many case studies and interviews across a wide spectrum of leaders and organizational experts.
As with any required reading assignments, I started my reading as drudgery, but I became more engaged by reading the values quoted by one of my favorite observers of the American Scene, Studs Terkel:
We have a right to ask of work that it include meaning, recognition, astonishment, and life. (p. 74)
And the conclusions drawn by the authors of this book including:
Authentic leaders require authentic followers—followers who care enough about the overarching purpose to challenge the leader’s position if they feel his or her judgment is impaired. Further, leaders themselves must encourage strong followers. (p. 211)
I began to wonder why the organization I was with then didn’t have published values and what cultural implications have I missed with all my staff and me performing our assigned duties off campus. Without explicitly stated values, I was taught as a social scientist to default to culture. Culture, of course, is ideas, meanings, knowledge, and, yes, values, conscious and unconscious, shared by a community of people. Unfortunately, I was estranged from the hospital culture, and Culture, to quote management guru Peter Drucker, eats strategy for breakfast.
Not seeing the plate quite yet, that was strike two on me.
Now rereading this book and noting my frequent underlining and my notes in the margins, I can see clearly that I was becoming enlightened and aware and upset and disgusted and cheated and confused.
Yes, I began to see that the organization I worked for at the time and I had different values. Furthermore, without a values statement, the organization and I made some assumptions about the other. This apparent organizational void could be violated and be used by those with their own personal agenda.
Ah, yes. And people do want to believe the worse about others.
Values or a value statement is another banner, like the mission and the vision statement that organizations fly at the masthead of efforts and enterprises in which they intend to continue or to undertake.
Values are simply an expression of what an organization believes. Some organizations will incorporate a code of ethics along with their values statement. This code is a brief statement in how they intend to put their values into practice.
Unlike the mission and the vision statement, however, values are not always explicitly stated. And yet, stated values may reveal more about an organization’s personality and approach as well as give direction to strategic planning and daily action.
It is too easy for many of us managing daily operations, often on the fly from one crisis to the next, not to think about the values, if there are any.
There are organizations, however, that do publish their values. Here is a selection:
Ben and Jerry’s has a product mission statement, a social mission statement, and an economic mission statement followed by detailed explanations and five value statements in how those missions will be fulfilled.
Coach has the following “core values” with detailed descriptions:
- The Brand is Our Touchstone
- Customer Satisfaction is Paramount
- Innovation Drives Winning Performance
- Our Success Depends on Collaboration
Disney ranks its order of Values: Safety, Courtesy, The Show, and Efficiency.
Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan, uses a series of bullet points:
- Focus on patient care
- Strive for excellence
- Collaborate to achieve results
- Take responsibility for performance
- Are truthful and respectful
- Embrace innovation
One exceptional example is Mercy Health St. Mary’s also in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which has a mission, a vision statement, and a promise along with the following core values and guiding behaviors:
- REVERENCE – We honor the sacredness and dignity of every person.
- COMMITMENT TO THOSE WHO ARE POOR – We stand with and serve those who are poor, especially those most vulnerable.
- JUSTICE – We foster right relationships to promote the common good, including sustainability of earth.
- STEWARDSHIP – We honor our heritage and hold ourselves accountable for the human, financial and natural resources entrusted to our care.
- INTEGRITY – We are faithful to who we say we are.
- We support each other in serving our patients and communities
- We communicate openly, honestly, respectfully and directly
- We are fully present
- We are all accountable
- We trust and assume goodness in intentions
- We are continuous learners
As much as I like the values of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital and of St. Mary’s Hospital, you can see even in this small sample, that published values are not just the domain of nonprofits and the caring professions.
Published and discussed values bring clarity to how work is performed by removing ambiguity.
Wouldn’t life be a little better if we could perform our duties at work without making assumptions?