Exploring Shared Values

Craig Freshley’s latest Good Group Tip popped into my inbox this morning. As ever, a useful reminder of what makes a good group. This time Craig talks about shared values – something we also talk about from time to time. He says:

In principle, values are those things most important to us, the things we value. For most people, they are ideals, beliefs, rules to live by. We are generally drawn to people who share our values. At the core of every defined group of people are shared values.

Practical Tip: Discuss values as a group and make a written, short, agreed-to list of the values you have in common. Simply having a discussion about values helps us understand each other. Deciding which values we share defines our group and helps people decide if they want to join the group and it also helps people decide to leave. A written list of shared values also serves as a code of ethics, a place to turn for guidance when the decision making gets tough.

Shared values are the steadfast ground on which we stand when things are in turmoil.

I agree wholeheartedly, and recent Rhizome work with a number of groups has led them to understand that they need to visit or revisit their vision and values precisely because it’s become apparent that they aren’t necessarily shared. I’d also like to take the tip one step further and suggest that groups don’t just agree values, but take the time to understand the many different interpretations of the words we use to describe values to ensure that they are deeply shared. Values more than some other ideas are hard to pin down in language and the room for miscommunication is significant. I’m sure that’s implicit in Craig’s thinking, but let’s make it explicit.

I might say that a core value of the group is ‘open communication’. You might agree. So far so good. But what if we have different ideas on what that means, and what behaviours demonstrate open communication? If so there’s still plenty of room for conflict. So check out your assumptions and interpretations for a really deep foundation to your group.



1 thought on “Exploring Shared Values

  1. Reblogged this on Naveed Chaudhri and commented:
    Such a seemingly simple tip, but a very powerful one. But value-based approaches matter even if there isn’t time (or the will) for an explicit exploration. In my own facilitation, I’ve generally tried to include something to get people thinking about what values they share – or don’t – right from the start. This isn’t always explicit: it could be done very powerfully, for example, through a round of stories, which in itself indicates that people in the group do have differences of motivation, value and perspective that need to be respected. Some groups will resist doing too much by way of ‘contracting’ at the level of behaviour, let alone discussing underlying values. If such groups – or the people commissioning a piece of facilitation – don’t want to spend too much time on explicitly addressing values (and time is often a concern), at the very least, a value-based element can help participants get in the right mindset for the topic of discussion, or enable them to draw more powerfully on their own sources of motivation, as well as, as Matthew says, facilitating the discovery of underlying blocks or tensions if explored further. If potential value clashes can’t be dealt with now, at least they should wherever possible be outed. Either way, there’s nothing (to me!) so unhelpful as to start people talking about a topic without reflecting even briefly on why they are there in the room – which is always to embody certain values via the outcomes that the group decides it wants to see. It’s so common to see this ignored in business meetings, and shouldn’t happen in well-facilitated groups (though I’m sure I haven’t always followed my own advice here!). It’s a bit like not introducing people in the room. Why would you allow that to happen?

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