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Simon Gibbs 5th May 2021
Like us, Geoff is a big fan of paper tools and formats that help people to visualise and work through a problem. As well as coaching and working on books, he has created several card decks to support useful coaching exercises.
At our event last week, Geoff, an inspirational thought leader and one of the most experienced and respected agile coaches in the world, spoke about two decks designed to help with sensitive and potentially controversial topics. The Core Values cards helps users to identify their core vales. The Persuasion Pack helps users influence others and increase their impact as change agents. They are an excellent pair to use together in work, or outside of work.
We all have values, but Geoff observes that people who are more conscious and mindful of their values are more effective, fulfilled and respected by others.
"If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything"
It is, unfortunately, very easy to be manipulated by others, or by ourselves. We can fool ourselves into thinking that we are acting in our interests but without conscious focus we loose sight of our strategic interests. If we know what we value and therefore what strategies we prefer, we can act more inline with them.
Geoff does a lot of coaching, usually helping leaders to develop a resilient business culture. His work often returns to the subject of values. Most of our sector is living in a VUCA world which is dominated by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity in which standardised best practice is ineffective. To create coherence and permit autonomy you need to rely on values and principles to guide decision making.
Geoff shared a list of challenges, from feeling unfulfilled to regrets resentments and distractions and gave plentiful examples from his coaching practice. He described how he will frequently coach individuals to discover and focus on their values to overcome these challenges and be more strategic.
The deck contains 50 cards with an attractive photograph and a single word to articulate each value. Fifty is a large number but by no means exhaustive (we got a question about lists of 400 values from psychology).
The exercise involves filtering the values down to just six at the most. The individual is invited to place them into two piles:
- More important
- Less important
The individual then repeats this exercise using just the more important cards, removing values progressively until the target is reached.
Geoff advised us to think of the values that represent us best, or are important to us, or come out when we are at our best. Reducing the number of cards can be hard, playing cards off against each other in pairs is helpful and the images are there to help you remember moments when you lived this value. You can sometimes make progress by eliminating your least favourite values first of all.
When coaching, Geoff follows the exercise by asking the individual to think of some stories in which they have put the values into practice. This helps Geoff get insight into the person's situation and allows them to reflect on whether they are living according to their values.
The stories can come from any part of their life, in or out of work. It might be that different aspects of our work reflect our values better.
These stories allow an individual to self-rate how they feel they are doing at living according to their values. They create a baseline, linked to something objective. The last stage of putting your values to work is to create a weekly tally to track how well you feel you are living according to your values and take action to improve the situation.
Geoff went on to explain that knowing your own values is useful, but should not normally interfere with the practice of values for the rest of your team. How can teams generate coherence around a shared set of values? How one might someone identify and deal with situations where your values don't align fully?
There are a few ways:
- Run the exercise with each team member and look for patterns
- Expand the number of values each person can choose, then focus on those which occur most often.
- Assign each team members values to tiers and give values a points score based on how often it turns up in each tier.
Geoff prefers to keep things simple, and suggests simply looking for overlaps in thr values chosen by team members.
Geoff said he felt that having a set of team vaues was important and conducted an exercise to gather our thoughts. We said we felt having a clear set of team values would generate togetherness and coherence, help team members to know each other better, share expectations around behaviours and improve collaboration.
The speaker's own view is that since organisations are aiming to thrive in a VUCA world, values are fundamental to coordinate that process.
Some teams may take an aspirational approach to choosing what values they hold dearest, but as long as they are focused on reality when they reflect on their values then this is still useful. This reflection can occur at the team's own pace, literally with the coach asking the team when to come togehter to reflect on them. Alternatively, the values can be posted up in a place visible to the team and brought up in conversation whenever they seem to be relevant (or in jeopardy).
The same principles can be applied at the organisational level. For an organisation in a VUCA world values allow the people at the coal-face to tackle problems and make decisions independently of leadership, but leadership can articulate values to encourage coherence and consistency around values.
The second part of this blog will talk about Geoff's Persuasion Pack where Geoff explains how we all seek to influence people every day and talks about some persuasion techniques to help make change happen including the ethics of some of the darker persuasion tactics. Stay tuned!