The paradox is that we are so concerned about surrounding ourselves with people ‘like us’ or appointing the ‘right’ people for jobs that we focus, way too often, on the exterior factors such as the looks, skin colour, cultural background or finally gender and we forget what really makes them like us, and that is their similar values and outlook on life. If we don’t attract people with the ‘right’ values, we risk not building the right culture. Only by knowing our inner values can we form groups of like-minded people and the right organisational culture. The key is to look beyond what’s familiar, as in the unfamiliar territory we may find more like-minded people than we think.
A dear friend and a passionate gender issues presenter has recently shared her first gender inequality experience. She recalled the situation when her male colleague did not provide her with the equal opportunity to make a contribution to a group discussion amongst peers. This event, as I understand, triggered her interest in study and work on social construction and gender equality. In her speech at the recent event on cultural dynamics, Liz pointed out that it is the foundation years that dictate how our perceptions of what is the norm and what is not, are formed. I believe Liz’s reaction to being ‘bypassed’ in the group discussion years earlier would have been very different, had she not been brought up encouraged to speak out and share her opinions openly. But she was.
The experience when we realise that, whatever we felt was our right, is not always perceived as such by others; or an event that changes our outlook on life and makes us realise what is truly important to us is called a peak experience or a trigger event.
At the cultural dynamics event, another presenter pointed out that equality in work places could not be achieved without the right culture. Such culture is achieved by shared values. Not the common values we often find on company websites though, but values, which drive and dictate our behaviour. In my work I refer to those values as inner or core values. It seems that if everyone in the organisation understands the importance of the ‘right’ behaviours and applies them, the right culture is in place. Is it that simple though? And how do we achieve the right culture in a work place?
The answer lies in the combination of the two comments the two speakers made at the event: we need to identify our core values, inner values – not morals, and we can do that by reflecting on our lives – by looking back at our foundation years or our peak experiences. Only then can we apply the desirable behaviour to form the culture we want.
So what steps can we undertake in our organisations?
1. We can recruit the right people. Those are the people whose values align with the values of the organisation. There is a lot of talk about what we pay attention to while recruiting new employees for jobs. How about recruitment based on shared values? Yes, skills and experience are important but at the interview stage all the applicants would have what is required, not all will have the ‘right’ attitude or share the same values. Why not focus on that.
2. What if we are not recruiting? The chances are that some of our team members will share the values of the organisation. Some will not. If we want all our employees to apply certain behaviours, we need to ensure that we speak the language they hear, present messages that resonate and have a meaning to them. If we want them to behave in a certain way, it’s not enough to tell them that a certain behaviour is important for the organisation or its culture. They need to see the benefits in applying the required behaviour for themselves. Only by understanding that the desirable behaviour will help them achieve their goals, will they apply it.
Are we all the same?
So to answer the question – are we all the same? At our core - yes, we are. In my research I find that very similar things are important to us all: family (love, belonging), freedom, honesty, integrity, respect, being heard, and how important they are – their hierarchy - will be dictated by our individual peak experiences. That hierarchy of importance is the hierarchy of values. Values impact our behaviour. Having the right set of values creates the right culture. So if we want to attract the right people to our organisations or circles or teams, we need to see if they value what we value. If different things are important to them, we need to ensure that we communicate what’s important to us in the way that they see as important as well – we need to speak their language so that they see the benefits in applying the required behaviours towards their goals.
Helping others to live & lead authentically.