I used to scoff at values. So many libraries and other organizations had long lists of values. But did they live these values, especially when making hard decisions? Not often. A client recently reminded me that when they asked me to develop values for their organization as part of the strategic planning I said “nope – values, shmalues”. Cheeky, eh?

A number of things coalesced to change my thinking about values:

  • Leland Kaiser’s insight that ‘Visions are values projected into the future.’

Kaiser was a physician focused on community care and changing how organizations think long before it was fashionable. Organizations and individuals must know where they want to be headed, and his words that where we are headed is determined by our values struck me as incredibly profound.

It’s true — if you want to learn about something, teach a course on it. Developing a meaningful curriculum took me to Brené Brown, Henry Mintzberg and Margaret Wheatley. Brown’s Dare to Lead research and practical exercises to develop and apply values is fundamental and the foundation of the LLEAD values session(s). Solid leaders and managers know themselves and their organizations. An individual or an organization without values is pretty shallow – rather soulless.

  • Begley’s Values Syntax.

The big ah-ha for me when I studied the syntax is the need to clarify the motive for a value. Yes, we want our workplaces to be inclusive and for people to have a sense of belonging within those hybrid, virtual and physical environments. Why? What’s the real motive? I’m not about to question anyone’s motives. It’s the connection between motive – value – attitude – actions that is so profound. What’s my motive for my value of curiosity? Is it to be snoopy? To know something someone else doesn’t? Is it to learn and connect dots, to see how something works? It’s to learn for sure – to make stuff work for people….which then aligns so well with the fulfillment I feel in formal and informal learning.

So, here’s what we cover at LLEAD on values and that I just presented at Computers in Libraries 2022 (great conference!). Adapting Brown’s work, people work through exercises in which they recall peak and poor experiences to surface how values were allowed to flourish or were quashed. From there they narrow the values down to two. That’s right two. If you have a laundry list, throw it in the dryer and shrink it to the core values that honestly define you — not who you want to be, but you – who you are.

Here’s the best part: use the worksheets to identify 3 behaviours for each value. That’s right. Three behaviours that you use that actually show you are living that value. And do the same for the library. If the library’s value is “community building”, what are the behaviours that demonstrate that value? And what happens when some community segments wield more power than others? Does the library maintain its value, or find itself on a slippery slope?

It’s tough, contemplative work. And worth it. If our value in the information world is freedom of expression we have to Show up, Stand up, Speak up. Even when it takes tremendous courage and risk. Ah, values. They are priceless.

Here’s the slides and the worksheets. There’s more good experiences at LLEAD. Check it out.