Making Personal Values Public: Create a Conversation for Learning and Leadership

Renee Harness

Want to make personal values a public conversation? Think creatively about how you can create a conversation at your organization. This is one way to truly Model the Way and fulfill the two commitments of this practice:
  • Clarify your values by finding your voice and affirming shared values
  • Set the example by aligning actions with shared values
My colleagues at Third Eye Leadership and I have met a number of leaders who have put their values —and the conversation around values—into action.

Take Gary McGee, for example, a Campus President at Harrison College, whose campus vision statement includes the values of hope and humor. Taking those values into the public space, Gary created a side-by-side board, with one side dedicated to "Hope" and the other to "Humor." He invited others to put postings or drawings or notes onto the bulletin board and created a buzz. "People immediately started posting things," Gary said. "Of course there were more things on the Humor side, but I was just happy to get people thinking about the importance of sharing values."

Donna Hirsch, 2nd Vice President of Organizational Development at Trustmark Companies, and her team created buzz in a different way. After facilitating the Values Experience with all 2,500 employees, the team worked to keep the values conversation alive. They kicked off their first-ever "Values Month" this past June by giving people the opportunity to share their values in a unique way: on each floor of the company atrium, they posted yards and yards of white paper for employees to write about, draw, and otherwise depict their values. Trustmark also instituted a "WeekEND Message" where senior leaders throughout the organization volunteer to write an article to share. Each Friday, via e-mail, they convey their thoughts and ideas, focused on their top five values. The practice has definitely caught on. Now, every Friday, leaders at every level are reaching out to others with stories that speak to their values.

Creating commitment through personal values is exactly what leaders like Gary and Donna do to make their environments ones where people want to work.

Renee Harness, Managing Partner of Third Eye Leadership, is a Master Facilitator of The Leadership Challenge® Workshop and also co-author, with Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, of The Leadership Practices Inventory Action Cards: Facilitator's Guide and The Leadership Challenge Values Cards Facilitator's Guide. She can be reached at renee@thirdeyeleadership.com.

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