This post offers leaders and aspiring leaders opportunity to consider the role of purpose and values for improving employee engagement and overall wellness. The discussion offers several individual and collective suggestions for leveraging purpose and values to improve value-alignment towards greater meaning, engagement and wellness for everyone!
Connecting with Purpose – Two Important Questions
- What brought you to your current position?
- What are the things that keep you here?
Depending on your level of engagement and/or the amount of stress and strain you might be experiencing at any given moment, these questions can sound like, “Why am I doing this?” or “Why am I still doing this?”. It’s not uncommon for all humans at some point or other, to ask themselves these questions.
Why are these questions so important? They assist in connecting us to our “why”, also known as our purpose. For many of us, purpose is where passion comes from; it’s what often drives us. It’s important to stay connected to our purpose as much as possible, because purpose fuels us with the energy, focus and conviction to do what most of us love to do.
Purpose is a great thing under all circumstances, but becomes increasingly significant in tough times. Knowing and staying connected to our purpose can make good days great and bad days better.
Values: A Powerful Source of Meaning
Purpose is comprised of two very important elements; goals and the drivers of those goals – our values. Values make up an important component of “Most Meaningful”. Most Meaningful occurs at work, when employees’ needs are being met, values are in alignment, goals are being approximated and/or accomplished and, strengths are recognized and leveraged.
(Our best explanation of Meaning and Meaningful can be found in the 30-minute CORE Foundations Webinar Recording – If you do not have it yet, sign up by Clicking Here and we will send it to you immediately)
Values, one of the four components of Meaning, may signify the most powerful source of human motivation, engagement and thereby operate as a major component of individual and collective wellness. Research demonstrates that, when people feel alignment between their personal values and the guiding values of their workplace, they experience a deeper sense of connection to the work, report higher degrees of satisfaction and tend to be more motivated and engaged in their work overall.
Value Incongruence – An Unintentional Source of Disillusionment
At one time or another, employees may experience feeling less than engaged as they carry out their work. Unfortunately, recurrent and prolonged periods of disengagement can negatively impact our overall emotional, social and mental well-being.
One of the major reasons people become disengaged from their work is due to a disconnection and/or dislocation from the things that give their work meaning. Values can be one of those important things.
Value-incongruence is a phenomenon wherein people experience a disconnect and/or incongruence between important and often stated personal/professional values and how they experience their work environment or the work overall.
Two Causes of Value-Incongruence
A major cause of value-incongruence occurs unintentionally when, for many reasons, staff become dislocated from a connection between their own values and important aspects of the work that are most aligned with those values. For example, we speak with lots of people that say things like, “You know, we used to have more fun at work” or “I remember when I used to make more time for personal check-ins before getting to work” or: “We don’t have time to go to the game-room or lunchroom and connect with colleagues as much as we used to”.
Another cause of value-incongruence occurs when people unintentionally behave in ways that contradict the guiding values on the wall. It is this type of value-incongruence that can have a variety of impacts on the morale and overall wellness of employees. At first, value-incongruences can be somewhat disconcerting.
The longer incongruences in behaviours persist, by individuals and/or groups of people, the experience can become disillusioning and overtime, may even be experienced by some staff members as demoralizing.
Minimize and Eliminate Value-Incongruence: Two Remedies
Re-aligning and resetting a deeper connection to our work starts with revisiting our own purpose and searching for important value-alignments that give us the greatest meaning. The purpose-questions offered above and values-directed questions offered below may provide a starting point for individual reflections and first steps:
- What values are most important to me?
- How do these compare with the department/company values?
- Are my values similar or different? To the company? To other colleagues?
- Are there aspects of my work and/or work environment where I feel aligned/connected with important values?
- Are there things I can do to bring more alignment to my personal and professional values in the work; with colleagues; with clients?
The second remedy is suggested for the collective. There are 3 important steps that people and their teams can take to decrease and eliminate value-incongruences.
- Identify important values– This step is easy to do as key values are often a big part of most companies Vision, Mission, and/or Guiding Principles.
- Develop a shared understanding of what those values mean– It is important that people have a shared understanding of what the values mean as they carry out the work. Different interpretations can lead to confusion, disagreements or conflicts that arise from actions and/or interactions that are incongruent with important values.
- Identify concrete and observable value-based behavior in operation– It is important that everyone understands what values look like in operation everywhere; in the work, in individual and team interactions and, with clients. What do Collaboration, Empowerment, Accountability, Innovation, and/or other important and guiding values look like in our practice?
When individuals and the collective work to identify, and operate in-line and to the extent possible, with important values, unintentional value-incongruences and the unfortunate implications can be avoided, paving the way for greater meaning and wellness as everybody carries out the work.
The Role of Leaders
Values are simply words, until our actions give them meaning. Leaders play a major role in promoting and sustaining value-congruence. As leaders and role models, it is critical that leaders consistently consider, the meaning their actions and interactions give to the values on the wall.
In addition to this, values are foundational and form a cornerstone to great culture. Given that leaders operate as culture champions; it is important that they be purposeful in promoting value-driven behavior. Great culture and subsequently overall wellness, is compromised when leaders permit and/or tolerate behaviours that are incongruent with the guiding values.
We suggest that leaders consider the following for enhancing their capacity to leverage purpose and values on the journey to greater wellness for everyone!
- Make values and value-alignment a priority.
- Encourage staff members to connect with individual and collective purpose.
- Initiate and facilitate a courageous values conversation offered in the 3 steps above.
- Always, to the extent possible, role model values-based behaviors in practice.
- Recognize and reinforce behavior that is congruent with important values.
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