Articles

Is It Not Weird To Train For Values?

August 10, 2016 - By Wendy Lambourne, Director, MA Industrial and Organisation Psychology, Registered Psychologist with SA Medical & Dental Council

Obviously Legitimate Leadership is a strong advocate of the leadership of any organisation developing a set of values which provide everyone in the organisation with clarity about what is important and valued, both within the organisation and in the organisation’s dealings with external stakeholders. This is because Legitimate Leadership is definitively an ethical framework which argues for values- rather than needs-driven behaviour by all those at work, but particularly by those in leadership roles.

What is concerning, if not mystifying, however is the tendency that I see in managers in organisations to seek to inculcate the company’s values by means of a training or educational process. This is weird simply because values are not an ABILITY issue, but rather a matter of the WILL. That being so, no matter how well designed or delivered, a training intervention will do little if anything to align employee behaviour with company values.

To really inculcate a set of values in an organisation requires the following:

  • First and foremost, that the values of the organisation are personified by those in leadership positions in the organisation. Unless leaders evidence the company’s values in their daily behaviour and practice, the values will not be embodied by others in the organisation. In the words of St Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”
  • Secondly, people need to be held accountable for living the values. That is, there need to be positive consequences for those who act consistently with the values and negative consequences for those who do not. People who deliberately contravene the company’s values need to be not only censured but disciplined, up to and including being dismissed, for doing so. This should be the case even when the results are being achieved. Unless this is true, values-driven behaviour will never take precedence over expediency in organisations, no matter how many values workshops people attend.
Wendy Lambourne
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