Using Our Personal Values to Influence Others
How can you effectively stand up for your personal values when pressured by your boss, colleagues, customers, or shareholders to do the opposite?
What do we mean by values? In a business sense, it is the self-motivated, aspirational set of ethics that guides us. Many of my peers and clients often hear me say that I provide high-quality, value-added business communication solutions. I’ve been saying this for years, but it’s only been recently that I’ve learned to frame the most important values and to agree upon shared goals with each client encounter. Along the way, I’m also learning to identify my own set of values, which help me to know when to speak my mind and to discern what’s right.
In her book, Giving Voice to Values, Mary Gentile empowers business leaders with the skills to voice and act on their values and align their personal path with their principles. The issue isn’t about distinguishing what is right or wrong in business; rather, it is about knowing how to act on your values despite opposing pressure.
Giving voice to values isn’t the same as speaking truth to power. Giving voice may mean asking the well-framed and well-timed strategic questions that allow people to think in a new way about a situation. I was taught this tactic by a leadership coach, and it has never failed me. The more strategic questions I ask, the more I continue to receive invitations to sit at the table and to help problem solve.
Injecting Personal Values
Giving voice to values may mean working behind the scenes with someone who is better positioned to raise an issue. This is especially true if you are in a hierarchical organization that values titles. Does it really matter who gets credit? If you have a great business idea and can utilize someone else in the organization who currently has more influence, this is an excellent way to get your idea across.
Giving voice to values may mean finding another ethically acceptable way to accomplish a task. It doesn’t necessarily mean “speaking up.” But building scripts and practicing will help.
The “giving voice to values” approach to values-driven leadership is a focus on building awareness and the preparation for effective, values-driven action. In this case, action means developing scripts and implementation plans for responding to rationalizations for questionable practices and putting the practice into action. It takes practice.
Giving voice to values is about building the skills, the confidence, the moral muscle (says Gentile), and the habit of voicing our values. It begins with the assumption that most of us want to bring our whole selves to work. Yet, we know from research that most of us will encounter values conflicts in our careers when our personal values and the things we want to accomplish are in conflict with the expectations of our clients, our colleagues, our bosses, or our organizations. This is when the practice approach is most effective.
Know What is Right and How to Make it Happen
By giving voice to your values, you can have a positive and lasting influence on many people. By asking the right questions, by building a set of allies, and by taking a practice-based approach to giving voice, we begin to build confidence in problem solving and greater confidence in knowing what we would say and do in certain situations. Over time, we will not only know what is right but also how to make it happen.
Marianne Gooch is a business leader, management consultant, and public speaker who helps business leaders become more effective communicators with speech coaching, speech writing, and presentation/media training. DynaComm is a 100% woman-certified and owned business with headquarters in Houston, Texas. http://www.dynacommllc.com/