Values (Core Strength) or Vomit?

I recently read Justin Trudeau’s book, Common Ground. One of the elements that jumped out at me was how well, and clearly, he articulated Canada’s core values. The values included equality of opportunity, openness and transparency, cooperation and strength in diversity.

The actions taken by the Trudeau government, at least on the world stage, have in so many ways demonstrated these values. In this way, they are not just stated values, but lived values. They are congruent. 

Well, that’s what I see anyway – but congruency, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Or not so much the eye, but the stomach – that’s where I feel it when I know it just doesn’t match - when it's all a show and it just doesn't ring true to what I see in action. If it really doesn’t match then it’s a little vomit in my mouth (urgh). 

When it matches, when it’s congruent, then it hums.

So, are Australia’s values humming in harmony with our actions as a country and our actions as individuals? Do we feel congruent? Or are we vomiting a little in our mouths?

The Australian Values Statement (from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection) tells us:

"Australian society values respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual, freedom of religion, commitment to the rule of law, Parliamentary democracy, equality of men and women and a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play and compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good."

While I think we could do a better job of articulating our values, what matters more to me is whether or not we live by these values. 

Are we celebrating freedom of religion? Are we tolerant and compassionate for those in need? Are we actively pursing the public good? Are we demonstrating a commitment to equality of opportunity for all? I would like to think that I am, that we are, that our government is, but what evidence can we point to that shows this is anything more than a stated commitment or aspiration? Today, this month, this year... What have we done?

Aristotle posited that “moral virtue, like the arts, is acquired by repetition of the corresponding acts” – the same can be said for values. Values are acquired by the repetition of the acts that are consistent with those values. Not simply saying something is so, but acting in a way that demonstrates it is so. 

It is one thing to say “these are the Australian values” it is another thing entirely to live by those Australian values, to seek out ways to demonstrate those values and to only make decisions that are consistent with those values.   

This is true for each of us as individuals. This is true for us as leaders.

The challenge for the leaders of our Government is the same challenge we have as leaders – leaders of our own lives and leaders within organisations. 

Are our actions congruent with our core values? Are our personal core values consistent with the values of the organisations we serve? 

If there is inconsistency or incongruence then we feel it. And those around us see it. It is that unsettled feeling in our stomach, or when it’s really not right, it’s vomit. In the mouth. 

We can ignore it, or we can take immediate action that is consistent with our values. Failure to act, or continued action that is incongruent with our values, means more metaphorical vomit - either our own, or for those watching us.

But of course, let's not pretend this is easy. We are human beings. We are good at failing. We are fallible. We get it wrong. We fall down. But we can get back up. Our Government is no different – it is made of human beings. And yes, the Canadian Government, and PM Trudeau, are human too – although that plank is something else. 

What matters is whether we, as individuals, live by our own inner core strength - our own values, and in so doing create communities, corporations and countries that can share in that congruent hum.

What makes you hum? Are you humming in harmony with the organisation you lead? If not, try this:

  1. Write down your values. Know them. Get clear on what matters most to you. Don't know where to start? Try the VIA Signature Strengths for inspiration on https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu
  2. Write down the values of your organisation. The real values. What you know is rewarded. What you know is key/core to how decisions are made. What you know is lived and demonstrated daily, weekly, consistently.
  3. Consider how well your values match the organisation you lead or you work within. What are the shared values you have with the organisation? Is there a disconnect? Can you bridge the gap?
  4. Take action (Theodore Roosevelt style: Get Action!) - make a decision, do something that is completely congruent with what matters most to you and is shared with the organisation you lead. You will feel better for it, and so will those around you (less vomit for everyone)!

LEONIE GREEN

Leonie practiced as an employment and industrial relations lawyer for a number of years prior to moving into management roles in industrial relations, shared services and human resources. Leonie has spent her career working with clients who understand that to get the best out of your business you need to get the best out of your employees.  Corvus are business lawyers and workplace advisors, with over 20 years’ experience working in Australian and international companies.