Are Your Values Valuable ?

Often when we are approached by a sports club, school or business, there are references to the ‘team values’ that the organisation has decided are important for their people to embody or express.

Often, coaches or leaders have a sense of frustration when they suspect that others are not living up to or abiding by those values, especially if their behaviour doesn’t reflect what the leaders believe the organisation stands for and represents.

Occasionally, the reason we have been invited in is to find out why, and to offer a technique or strategy to change attitudes and to fix behaviour.

We might be able to diagnose the issue, but unfortunately, techniques and strategies are not currencies we deal in.

What we can do is explain why the current strategy isn’t working, and offer some clarity around what team values really are, and what might be missing from the existing approach.

What Is A Value?

There seems to be confusion about what a value is. There is definitely a misunderstanding about where team values come from and how clubs and organisations can base a culture around them.

Perhaps this is to do with the number of different ways the word ‘value’ can be used in the English language.

My dictionary lists 18 different definitions.

The one which seems most relevant for this article would seem to be:

Important and lasting beliefs or ideals shared by the members of a culture about what is good or bad, and what is desirable and undesirable.

Which seems simple enough.  But it still leaves room for misunderstanding and confusion.

Perhaps it might be helpful to clarify the difference between a value, and a belief or an ideal?

Beliefs and ideals are not values

They are concepts. Unlike values, they point to the personal rather than the universal.

They might be relevant for one individual, but not for everyone. For one team or sport, but not others. They might well change over time as the team or organisation evolves, or as the society in which it operates changes.

It’s fine to have beliefs and ideals, and even to make them important parts of your organisational culture, coaching strategy or plan.

But values come before beliefs. Values are stable, constant, primary. They are the ground where beliefs and ideals originate.

Values Are Universal, not Personal

If this is so, it makes sense for the beliefs and ideals of a sporting organisation to be grounded in the experience that every human being cherishes most highly of all.

A value is primary. It needs to be acknowledged and understood before thinking about beliefs or behaviours.

From our values we derive our principles or beliefs. How we want to live our life or play the game.

From our principles, habits, policies and behaviours will flow.

Beliefs, habits, policies and behaviours will change over time, and differ from person to person.

Values are something permanent, unchanging, constant.

Where people and organisations run into problems, it’s when they take a behaviour that they want to see and attempt to define it as a value or a principle.

This is putting the cart before the horse.

Team Values Build Connection

There are aspects of the human experience which are common to everyone. They point to and originate from the same source. We might not understand this at an intellectual level, but we instinctively know and recognise the feelings when we are acting from that knowing.

We might describe this source as our true nature, consciousness or being. It is what we are referencing when we say the words ‘I’ or ‘I am’. It is who we are at the most fundamental level – prior to personal thought, ideas, theories or concepts

The knowing of true nature is experienced as a feeling of happiness, fulfilment, love, enthusiasm, oneness, connection, peace or well-being.

These are all words to describe the same intuition, the same embodied understanding.

If you ask someone what is most important to them, what they want most from life, they would probably say one or more of these words. Therefore, we could say that that the purpose of life, what most people are striving for, is to experience these feelings more.

And to experience the absence of these feelings – known as suffering – less often.

Therefore we could describe this desire for love, for happiness as the universal human value, because it is what we all regard as most valuable.

Behaviours Are Not The Same as Values

For example, I often see hard work and motivation described as values.

Hard work is not primary. Giving your best effort is a symptom of unconditionally loving what you are doing.

Enthusiasm* is the value, which points us back to true nature. 

Teamwork is not a value. Teamwork is a symptom of a feeling of belonging. Of connection with the group and recognition of a shared spirit.

Love is the value, which points us back to true nature.

Respect is not a value. Respect comes from the realisation there is no separation from another person, group or team. A recognition of being from same source.

Oneness is the value, which points us back to true nature.

Discipline is not a value. Discipline is a symptom of knowing an outcome or result cannot enhance or diminish your true self, who you really are.

Well-being or inner peace is the value, which points back to true nature.

The best way of encouraging an authentic, inspiring culture to develop within your organisation, is to ground that culture in the universal values which every human being knows and experiences as the feelings described above.

Principles Flow From Values

Once you have understood values and where they come from, if you wish to do so, the next step might be for the group to develop some principles, to define the direction you wish to travel. From these principles or beliefs, appropriate behaviours and policies will effortlessly evolve.

There will be no need to enforce them, or remind people or to have rules and regulations in place. There will be no need to motivate or invoke willpower to get things done. You have already grounded your culture in what everyone naturally wants anyway, so progress is effortless.

Values police themselves. The problem with the team values in most organisations is that they aren’t values at all.

They’re rules, or expectations. 

Who likes endlessly being reminded what to do or how to behave? Who enjoys having the weight of expectations constantly on their shoulders?

Values Are Universal

When you specify your beliefs or behaviours before clarifying your team values, you can run into trouble. There will be inconsistency and confusion.

For example, if you run a business, you might want your design department to ‘value’ creativity. The accounts department, not so much.

If you are a rugby team, you might ‘value’ structure and organisation in defence, but want the same players to feel freedom to express themselves in attack.

Defining these ambitions as preferences or policies makes them easier to understand and apply appropriately.

Values are universal. No one will disagree with them. People might misunderstand where they come from, or forget they are innate, but it’s hard to argue that love, happiness, enjoyment and well-being are not important to everyone.

If you have team values which aren’t resonating, or a being resisted, it’s probably because they are beliefs, or behaviours, not values.

They are personal, not universal.

The Key Question

Values are effortlessly expressed in the qualities of resilience, resourcefulness, enthusiasm, integrity, creativity and insight,  attributes that will serve us in all situations.

If as coaches and leaders, we help people to see that this potential is freely available to them all the time, rather than binding them with rules and expectations, we will be regularly surprised with the solutions and performances they come up with.

We can relax, and in doing so allow them to do the same.

So, when it comes to defining your team values, rather that thinking about what you want to see, ask yourself, and those who will be joining you in the endeavour:

‘How do we want this to feel?’

‘Regardless of the outcome, what would make this experience worthwhile?’

By gaining clarity in this area, you are much more likely to find the love, connection, wisdom and enjoyment which will sustain you on the journey, regardless of the twists and turns that will inevitably ensue.

*The etymology or origin of the word enthusiasm is interesting. It comes from the latin ‘enthusiasmus’ which means ‘possessed by a god’, or ‘having a god within’. God is the religious word for consciousness or awareness.


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