Why skills matter as much as our Values do

Often in workshops, and in coaching circles I am asked Why is it so hard to translate good intention into behaviour? No doubt we have all seen this unfold – a well meaning, ‘values-led’ behaviour has the opposite of it’s intended effect – a person or a team end up feeling hurt. This happens not because the value or intent were ‘bad’, but because the value was expressed with little or no skill. Whilst Values are vital, it’s our skills that power their expression.

Twenty years of leadership experience combined with my own personal development work have left me deeply convinced that the holy grail for every business – regardless of size, industry or customer base – are employees and leaders with well-developed personal values coupled with the skills to express those values positively. These are the people who possess sound judgement, who manage themselves well, who stay customer centric, and who operate consciously. Research – mountains of it – supports this conviction (some great reading below).

Values are always happening:

Whether we are conscious of them or not, our values are never not happening in our lives. Our values can be shaping our lives in negative, passive or positive ways. How our values ‘show up’ for us will depend on two things.

  1. How well we understand what we value, including why it’s important, or ‘of value’ to us
  2. The skills we have available to express what we value to others

Values expressed negatively usually are harmful to ourselves and/or others. For example, the value Honesty expressed without self-awareness or skill can show up as a very brutal conversation that can be hurtful and diminishing. A leader who, despite their best intentions is ‘brutally honest’ with their team, can decimate engagement and performance. Compare this with a ‘beautifully honest’ conversation where the real issues are discussed in a way that expands perspective, builds trust and connection and results in new, shared goals.

Similarly, valuing Gratitude without skill can show up as excessive amounts of praise which done inappropriately feels trite, condescending or needy. It ends up having the opposite of its intended affect.

Knowing your values is a great start; yet alone, is not enough. We need awareness and skills to positively shape the expression of our values. We have to hone our skills so we live our values in a way that achieves the results we seek.

Whilst Values are vital, it’s skills that determine their effectiveness:

Values expressed with skill are active and healthy – positive. Their expression is life-affirming, inclusive, and as we express them, we learn, our understanding of the value and our skill in expressing it both get stronger. This makes our values more defined, more substantial and more impactful. Our values become both the platform that anchors our decisions and the directional compass keeping us on a thriving and growth-oriented  course.

At this level, we start to experience the true meaning of the word ‘value’. That is, we experience the intrinsic benefit of whatever it is we are talking about – gratitude, honesty or achievement – and see that the value itself enriches and deepens our experience of life. This happens quite aside from any external reward that may come. Everything worth doing – honing our skills, getting fit, reading more, eating a healthy diet has an intrinsic value – it’s own reward.

That’s what ‘values’ are… they have worth and benefits in their own right. Values are complete, they require nothing external for their worth to be realised.

The outcome of knowing our values, and expressing them with skill, is a mature integrated adult. One who has that elusive, and most revered of qualities – Character. The word “character” comes from the Greek kharakter that means “engraved mark.” To have character means we have, through our behaviour, distinguished ourselves as singular.

A values-aligned life is available to all of us. If we aren’t living this, the issue often isn’t the values, it is usually that we haven’t developed the skills to align our behaviour with those values.

The skills to align are also available to us all – every skill is learnable. When we progressively take up this positive journey, we instantly bring benefit and increased effectiveness to everything we do. We bring it to our organisation, our team, our clients and customers. We bring our evolving values and skills to our decisions, to our ability to run meetings, to how we respond to a crisis, to how we treat others and, to how we see the world.

The ability to live our values in no small skill-set or journey, I have yet to come across anyone who has reached the end of that journey. Practicing our values is practicing our skills and vice versa; both require awareness, commitment and a comfortable relationship with vulnerability. Yet these challenges are in my experience, a spec on the lens compared to the panorama of benefits of a values-aligned life.

I passionately deliver workshops on values and strengths such as Gratitude, Game – changing Goals and The Achievement Advantage into organisations. My goal is to demonstrate the vast benefits these values and strengths bring to us as people, to our effectiveness as employees and leaders, and to the organisations we work for. To find out about all our workshops, keynotes and coaching visit www.theamplifygroup.com.au


References and further reading:

Character Strengths and Virtues: A handbook and classification. C. Peterson & M. E. Seligman (2004)

Studying Values: Personal Adventure, Future Directions. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 42(3), 307-19.

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