Oct
17

Which Comes First: Organizational Values or Personal Values?

by  Jon Mertz  |  Leadership Development

Karin Hurt challenged us to think about vision and values the past month. In the Lead Change Google+ group, we asked the question:

Which comes first: Organizational Values or Personal Values?

Here are some snippets of the responses:

Sonja M. Lauterbach: Upon my experience, they should match.

Joy Guthrie: When personal values don’t match up with organizational values, there would definitely be stress for both the person and the organization. It’s not a perfect world, though, so it’s unlikely that you’ll always have a perfect match between the two. This can get to be a tricky question, though. I can see a case where you’d want personal values to lead and a case where organizational values should lead.

Mike Henry Sr.: I believe we’re most drained when our organization values something other than we value personally.  When others value what we value, we’re energized.

If the organization you’re involved with doesn’t share your values, eventually you’ll start “working for the weekend” and using TGIF and hump-day metaphors. You’ll start longing for the opportunities to spend your energy in line with your personal values.

Kate Nasser: I lived this question and of course I was being paid to live the organizational values — which were quite different from mine. In the end I did a lot of soul searching, went to a career counselor for guidance on finding a life where I could live my values.  25 years ago … started my own business.  For me it was the beginning of true living!

Mike Henry Sr.: I learned something else about the overlap (or lack thereof) between personal and organizational values this week.  When your personal values are engaged, you find new energy. Regardless of what the organization values or doesn’t, when your personal values are violated and some restoration has to take place, you find new energy to persevere and overcome. I’m learning to never underestimate the power of personal values. Also any organization would do well to hire and develop to align personal and organizational values if for no other reason than for the energy created.

Another great conversation in the Lead Change group from an engaging and thoughtful group of leaders! To build on these thoughts, both organizational and personal values need to be understood and defined.

Organizational Values

Organizational values are present, whether they are defined or not. They are represented in your organizational culture.

Culture brings us views of warm and fuzzy thoughts yet it is an essential, tangible thing. Whether or not you define it, you have organizational values. They are defined by the people working there. So the questions become:

  • Do you want your organizational values defined by various individuals in various departments? or
  • Do you want to define the organizational values you desire and then exemplify them across all departments?

My advice. Take the latter approach and build a culture and organization for the long haul. You will have a more engaged group of people working together to do great things for your customers and stakeholders.

Personal Values

It is amazing to see how individuals don’t take the time to define and write their personal values. Personal values answer at least three questions:

  • How will you lead in good times?
  • How will you lead in challenging times?
  • What type of person do you want to be remembered as?

Don’t take your intuitive feeling as your personal values. Take the time to write the answers and think about them. Refine them. Write them again. Live them. Lead by them.

This is what personal values are about, and we need to take the time to define them and then use them daily.

Personal Values or Organizational Values: Which Is First?

The community is right. Both need to be aligned to get the most satisfaction and engagement possible out of all involved.

Both need to be defined. This is the first step. The next step is to lead by example in both. If they are in conflict, then you have a real decision to make as to what to do next.

So, the question is open: Which comes first? Personal values? Organizational values? Add your voice to the conversation in the comments section below.

What’s Next? Please leave a comment below to join the conversation…

About The Author

Articles By jon-mertz
Jon Mertz is one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. At Thin Difference, Jon writes and facilitates a conversation on how to empower, challenge, and guide the next generation of leaders.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Mary C Schaefer  |  17 Oct 2013  |  Reply

Jon, thanks for pulling this together with comments from the Google+ Group and adding your own thoughts.

Mike’s insight about using “hump day” language, etc. is so useful to notice both in ourselves and those who look to us for leadership.

I can relate very much to Kate’s comments and choice to start her own business.

Glad to be among people who think deeply and grapple with questions such as those about personal and organizational values.

Jon Mertz  |  17 Oct 2013  |  Reply

Thank you, Mary. It is great to have an engaged community jumping in with their experiences and thoughts. It definitely helps us dig deeper in our own thinking and actions. Appreciate it, Mary!

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