Ghost Values are Kicking Your A@#$!

 In Ghost Values


It was a warm Friday morning in June and we were engrossed in session #2 of the Culture Lab KC. In this session were about 18 local business people all gathered to create an intentional workplace culture. Session #2 is all about activating your values.

We started out with the definition of values, they are beliefs that are important to you that guide your decision making and influence your actions.

As we were talking about what values are, Kyle had a question. “What is it called when you do something, and you don’t know why you did it. You are not sure what value is in play, you just know you did something and you are clueless as to why.”

I answered back, “Well Kyle, we call those Ghost Values. Ghost Values are values that you have, that you cannot see, you have not identified. You have those values inside of you, in your subconscious, and your conscious brain has no idea they are there.”

We all have these Ghost Values. They impact our lives every day, in many ways. They impact us in positive ways and they impact us in negative ways, just know one thing, they are real and they are kicking your a@#$!

I was working with a new client recently and they wanted to reduce turnover. I asked them, “what are your company values?” They (the executive team of this company) looked at one another and then looked back at me. “We don’t have any” the opined.

This is a perfect example of each of us. We have these values, we are just not aware of them.

Your organization, heck, YOU, make all of your decisions based on which values are important to you. It is time to identify those values, stomp out the negative ones and replace them with preferred ones. It is time to take the positive ones and make sure we are supporting them with specific actions and behaviors on a daily basis.

Back to the exec team. I told them that I would be able to determine what their organizational values were, simply by talking with them for about 45 minutes. I have learned how to listen and observe people and teams to determine their values. Listen for words they repeat, watch for patterns that are repeated. Listen for what actions are they doing, why are they doing these things.

So I asked questions and they talked, and talked and talked. They told me all about what they were doing, what things they were not doing. They bragged about how many hours a week each of them worked, wearing those long hours as a badge of honor.

After about 30 minutes, I told them, “I know what your first value is!” The CEO got all excited, “Awesome, we are really excited to hear. Please tell us.” “Busy-ness” I replied.

“Busy-ness?” the CEO replied. “That doesn’t sound very positive.” “Oh, it isn’t” I said.

I went on, “You all told me how many hours you were each working. You told me about projects that each of you starts, projects that the company starts, and you don’t finish most of them. And why don’t you finish them?”

The CEO was quick to reply, “because we are too busy!” As soon as the word busy came out of his mouth, he got this peculiar look on his face. It was a look of both relief and devastation.

The good news I said, is that we can fix that. We can eliminate busyness as a primary value for you all. But you cannot change something that you cannot identify, and congratulations, you have identified the first Ghost Value. Let’s keep on going and determine a few more.

One of the other values that we determined they already had was serving other people. Again, by listening to them talk about the things that they do on a daily basis, by examining where they spend their time and energy, we were able to see that they really did want to serve their customers.

The exercise I would encourage you to do is this. Write down about 25 – 50 things that you do on a regular basis. Habits, actions and behaviors. Write down one per line. To the right of each entry, write down, and be as honest as you can be, WHY you do each one. What is the belief that drives the behavior? You will start to notice some patterns, those are your values.

You can do this same activity with your people. By either observing them and looking for patterns, or by having them do the exercise of which I just spoke.

You improve yourself and your lot in life by thinking of this question:

What don’t you know that you don’t know?

When you can start figuring that out, you will start to create some forward momentum.

Stay tuned for next month’s topic, building momentum! Until then, have a great month and watch out for those ghosts!

Frank Keck, Founder and CEO

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