By Hazel Howard
In the midst of working with a team in San Francisco, Hazel Howard shares an approach for aligning on Values that reduces conflict and smooths the path for effective and efficient working.
Focusing on the How, not just the What
Teams can have a clear set of objectives; how they achieve them can often cause the conflict within.
By better understanding the key players in the team, and what matters to each member, we smooth the path for effective and efficient working. Without this, the focus on the What, is delayed due to the lack of clarity on the ‘how we connect’ and ‘why this matters’.
Facilitation with Teams
Working with a team, who were looking for direction, we started to look at the Values of the team. We’d explained that Values – like Vision and Strategy – is one of the 9-Dimensions of Team Effectiveness® that increases the chances of being a high-performing team.
The individual members of the team didn’t know each other particularly well and were, up until this point, focused on the ‘work’ each person did; that formed their identity and therefore connection with others.
Some members were struggling with this focus; they wanted to focus on the Objectives…the ‘What we are here to do’. Whilst important, if we don’t understand each other, then how we start to work together can prove a challenge.
Start with Individual Values
Before we start to explore team values, we need to understand each individual team member’s values.
To help with this – some were more familiar with their values than others – we sent them a Values Exercise, so that they could review their own values to start the process of identifying what matters to them.
Recognising when someone does something that conflicts with your values – that’s when the tension arises; for example: when someone says, “that isn’t fair” with real meaning – you can probably surmise that ‘fairness’ is one of their values.
We tend to connect with people with similar values. By recognising own values, we can start to acknowledge other’s values. Values are the things that connect us.
We then captured our own values on post-it notes; we asked individuals to keep to 3 of their top values. We asked for one value for post-it note.
Grouping and Aligning on Values
From this, we grouped the value statements of individuals. There was remarkable alignment amongst team members.
The team, in small groups, then reviewed the individuals’ values, then created what values they wanted for their team within the organisation with a clear reason why and how these values would manifest themselves.
Listening to the separate groups there was remarkable similarity. There were 3 teams tasked with 2 values each for the team – so they had to prioritise those that were most important to them.
Once discussed, 3 values were agreed upon.
Shaping the Values
Some team members then volunteered to shape these values, work them up – both content and how they will be used within the team. The team recognised the importance of the values – and knew their importance.
These would be the guiding principles by which this team were committed to operate by.
The Outcome: increased understanding & connecting in a different way
The outcomes, through discussion, were how important this exercise was. Not only did the team have a set of values – they really started to understand each other in more depth than they ever envisaged before embarking on this ‘exercise’.
Ignore exploring the values of team members at your peril; they are key to explaining why we do things the way they do and really precipitate team understanding. The following day, the team – without mentioning values – had already started to connect in a different way.