What are your values?
Values exist for yourself and your businsss. What are yours? Values from a business side of things are often imposed by leaders with posters on walls telling people to behave in a specific way. As a result any attempt to work on these is often seen with real scepticism. Yet, values exist for yourself and for your practice in some shape or form and actually everybody being aligned behind a small number of values is essential for an effective and cohesive team and business. So, it is therefore critical to understand how to go about doing some work on them.
What are values?
If you look in the dictionary it describes values as ‘principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgement on what is important in life’.
So, the first question is what are your own personal values? What are the values you want to live your life by? A good way to think about this is to imagine that you have passed away and then you ask your closest love ones about your life. What would you want them to say about you? This gives you guidance on the 2 or 3 key behaviours that are most important to you in terms of how you want to live your life.
Then you have to really take a look at yourself and ask if you are truly living those values? What are the specific behaviours that align to these values and are you living them? Over the last 3 months how many times did you go against those values? What was the situation and how can you avoid doing that again. For me this is real integrity, which is living your values every minute of the day, 365 days of the year.
If you are a practice principal of leader it is really vital that there is a level of alignment between your own values and those of the practice. If those principles are very different this makes it tiring and stressful for you as well as meaning you are less likely to be highly effective for the practice that you are leading or a part of.
Why are values important for a practice?
If we look at businesses, teams or dental practices without clear values then I believe you will see the following: team members in constant discussion, debate and bickering about what is the right thing to do in different situations, often continually referring back to the practice principal or leader for every decision as they are not clear on the principles to make that decision, unable to move fast and effectively as a result. On the other hand where there are aligned values team members know what the expected standards are and live those out. The whole team hold each other accountable and are not reliant on the leader to keep people aligned to the values. They are able to be agile as a result, moving fast and effectively. They waste considerably less time in disagreement on what is right and what is wrong. They can get on with focusing on the success of the practice. Values also give a confidence and strength to do the right thing in difficult situations such as we are faced with currently. So, the importance is not to be underestimated.
How do you go about creating those values for my practice?
You have to get the whole team involved in some way. The first thing is to understand the current values of the team. What are the current values of the people in the practice? What do they understand the key values of the practice to be? Then you have to work out if these are the right values for the future of the practice? How do they align with your own values?
Combine these elements to gain clarity with your team about the key values. This takes time and patience to figure out, especially to get down to a small number which the whole team agrees on. Maximum of 3 for it to be easily and consistently communicated and to really mean anything in terms of direction. Any more than this and it doesn’t really give any true guidance. Open discussions with constructive conflict will really be required for it to truly mean anything to the team. It is difficult and takes time but it is worth it. It is possible and even likely that some individuals may opt out and leave the practice if they really don’t believe in the values yet everybody else is on board with them. That is ok….
You can see how much emphasis sports teams put on living their values in order to achieve the highest possible performance. The England cricket team prior to their World Cup Victory in 2019 excluded Alex Hayles for consistently going against the team values that they had agree upon. It was actually his fellow senior team members who really wanted him out based on him not sticking to those values…..
And this is where the hard work and real difficulty lies, which is actually living those values. In time the team will hold each other accountable to the values, taking the load off the leader, but in the beginning it is the leader who needs to communicate clearly the values and regularly refer to them both formally and informally. The leader must affirm behaviours that really live those values whilst also having honest conversations in situations where those values have not been lived. To effectively do this the leader really must believe in them, which brings us back full circle to the personal values of the leader.
When those values are truly known and being lived by everybody in the practice they will significantly improve the performance of the business. This doesn’t necessarily require them to be on a poster on the wall…….
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