As human beings, we each have values.
There are many possible values. You may have been through an exercise to identify your own values, or you may have been through an exercise to identify your team values. Usually, you identify the 3-5 values that are most important to you by choosing from a list of 40+ values.
Why do values matter?
Why is it important to identify our core values?
Here are 3 reasons values matter.
- Values help us live our best lives.
- Values help us understand other people.
- Values help us work productively in teams.
#1 – Live our best lives
Often, when we find ourselves feeling a sense of friction in our lives, it is because we are out of alignment with our values. Self-awareness can help us recognize when we feel this internal resistance. We can then reflect on what does not feel right and check in with our core values. On the flip side, strong alignment with our values can bring us feelings of peace, contentment, and excitement.
When we are self-aware and in touch with these values, they drive our behavior. When we are living our values, we show up as our most authentic and most alive versions of ourselves.
Values also help us sort our way through difficult decisions.
Several years ago, I felt resistance.
Life was good, but there was something missing. After a lot of reflection, inspiring stories, and research, I quit my job and traveled solo through Latin America for 20 months.
In hindsight, I know that the resistance came from not fully living my core values. During those 20 months, I felt completely in alignment. I felt like I was doing the thing I was put on this earth to do. I was honoring my values of simplicity, freedom, and beauty every day.
#2 – Understand other people
If you want to understand other people, learn what they value. Again, values drive our behavior.
As an example, I don’t like being late.
I am very organized with my calendar because of this. It is important to me that I keep my time commitments, showing up on time and finishing on time. (Not surprising that I am great at enforcing Scrum time-boxes.) I now know that what drives this behavior is my value of respect. Respect means different things to different people. One thing it means for me is not wasting people’s time. And of course, the flip side is that I can feel disrespected if my time is wasted.
If you understand this about me, you can know that if I am late and appear to be distracted and irritated, it’s not about you. It’s about me. I am feeling out of alignment with my values. I am much more aware of this, so I can self-manage. (Except in traffic when I think we all become the most terrible versions of ourselves.)
This example bring me to another important mantra I have.
Assume positive intent.
If you are late to meet me, I now know it does not mean you don’t respect my time. Instead of getting upset, I take a moment. I assume positive intent. Things happen that are beyond our control.
I can also look at where values might be at play. I can let it go, knowing there is positive intent. Or I can engage in a discussion, so we can both me more aware of each other’s needs, and if necessary, come to an agreement about our relationship moving forward. This brings me to the third point.
#3 – Work productively in teams.
In the book Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni states, “The fact remains that teams, because they are made up of imperfect human beings, are inherently dysfunctional.”
Yet we know that working in small, cross-functional teams is the best way to creatively solve the complex problems we face in an unpredictable world. So we have to figure out how to get beyond the dysfunction and become a productive and collaborative team.
This is where values come into play. As mentioned previously, values help us better understand our team members.
But the team itself needs a set of values to guide behavior. The Scrum Values of focus, openness, courage, commitment, and respect serve this purpose in Scrum. In fact, I would argue the Scrum Values can benefit any team, even if they are not using Scrum, because they enable empiricism and collaborative teamwork.
When you form a team, it is an entirely new entity. It is a living being. Teams are not necessarily “born with” these innate values. Discuss the values for shared understanding.
As in the earlier example, how one person interprets respect may be different than how another person interprets it. There is no right or wrong; it’s a collaborative negotiation. The Scrum Values need to be continuously examined and clarified as the team figures out how to best live these values in their context as they work together.
3 Steps to Make It Real
I challenge you to make this real in your life. Here are a few actions you can take on your own or with your team.
- Identify your top 3-5 values. How are you honoring them? Which have your ignored lately?
- Practice assuming positive intent in all of your interactions for a week. What’s different in your life with this mindset?
- Have a conversation with your team about the Scrum Values. What are recent behaviors that demonstrate the Scrum Values? Which of the Scrum Values does the team want to live more fully and why?