A foundation is supposed to be the most solid thing that we ever build. Even when a natural disaster may strike and destroy everything aboveground, a good foundation remains.
So how does that relate to human interactions? Great question! It’s about building TRUST between people.
Trust is built on consistency. It starts with behaviors and interactions because that’s what we do as people. I do something which is valuable for you, and you return the favor by giving value to me. Over time, a bond of trust is formed where you start to know how I think, and I know how you think.
Those are shared values. Mine may not be exactly the same as yours, but they need to be close enough that we can both agree to continue developing a relationship with each other.
These are simple, universal things. Honesty. Generosity. Focus on the customer. Playing by the rules.
Even though they seem universal, we can’t assume that everyone has the same understanding. For instance, “playing by the rules” can mean quite different things. One person will believe that the “rules” are based on everybody winning, while someone else prioritizes “if you win, that means I lose.”
We’re not building a shared foundation in that case. Even if we agree that we’re operating by different rules, we’ll be building something quite different based on these assumptions.
So you really only know if you share values when you test them with tough situations.
The current response to the pandemic is showing how different our values can be. Even though we all agree that disease is bad and we want to eliminate it as quickly as possible, we can radically differ on HOW that should be done.
I might prioritize fairness in a “we all have to suffer equally” kind of way. You might look toward isolating suffering into the smallest pockets possible, since suffering is a bad thing.
These even get down to the values you were taught at your mother’s knee when you were two years old. Stuff that’s so embedded it’s hard to even articulate it.
Fortunately, in a context like this website, it’s much easier for us to agree on foundational values. When we agree to behave by them, then we build trusting relationships.
We don’t want to just THINK about a topic like this, right? We want to DO something to better ourselves and the community. So here are some concrete things you can do today.
- To what degree have you captured your foundational values? Once you start writing them down, you’ll develop and stabilize the concepts.
- To whom do you need to articulate those values? Start first with a trusted friend, mentor or coach – someone you trust to support you as you struggle to find the right words.
- How do you want to include this into your actions and words? It might be weird to have your elevator pitch declare that “I’m a trustworthy person.” Perhaps it would be more natural to state that “I strive to always deliver what I promise” because you’re admitting that it’s a lofty goal that you’re always working toward.
- How do you want to create systems which reinforce your values? If you have a team, maybe you’ll make an agreement that it’s safe to call people out – in a supportive way – when you don’t live up to the shared values. If you’re all about delighting the customer, you can design a feedback system likely to give you honest and timely inputs.
Carl Dierschow is a small business coach homed in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA. He specializes in leaders and owners who strive to better society and the planet through thoughtful business practices. He is currently available for free coaching sessions for those whose organizations are struggling with the impact of the pandemic. Feel free to connect with him here on the Foundation platform!
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