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Dec 9, 2014

Every supervisor, manager and leader in every organization makes hundreds of decisions every week. The decisions we make are always motivated by either our personal or organizational needs.

But have you ever thought about how you make your decisions? Do you make decisions based on your instincts, beliefs, values, intuition or inspiration?

Most people make decisions based on their beliefs. The problem with beliefs is that they are based on information from the past that we then project into the future.

In a rapidly changing world, the past is not a good predictor of the future.

This is why more and more leaders are shifting to values-based decision-making. Values-based decision-making also has another important advantage: When people share and live by the same values decision-making gets easier.

What are values?

I define values as the energetic containers of our aspirations and intentions. Your values define who you are and what is important to you, as an individual and an organization.

When you live by your values, you live with integrity, and you become an authentic individual. Integrity and authenticity are highly sought after leadership traits because they build trust, and trust speeds up everything. It facilitates efficiency and minimizes the need for bureaucracy.

Values are concepts that transcend contexts. Beliefs, on the other hand, are context-dependent: Your beliefs depend on the world views of the culture you were brought up in and the parental programming you received in your formative years.

Because at the deepest level of our being all humans share the same aspirations, but may not share the same beliefs, values can be used as a tool for creating internal cohesion in a team, an organization, a community or a nation.

This is why it is important for organizations to declare their values. When you declare your values, your employees, your customers and your partners know what you stand for. Shared values along with a shared vision create motivational alignment.

When organizations define their values, they should try to include everyone in the process. You want to make sure that the values you choose align with everyone’s aspirations: If they don’t they will never be lived.

What are behaviors?

How do you know if someone is living the organization’s values? You cannot see their values.

The answer is simple: Observe their behaviors.

If you, as an individual or an organization, are living with integrity, your values will be congruent with your behaviors. This is because it is what we do and how we do it, rather than what we say, that sheds light on who we really are and what is important to us.

Every unit needs values, too

When you are using values to guide the decision-making of an organization, every person, every unit and every department should embrace and live by the same values.

However, the behaviors associated with a particular value could be different in different units, depending on their function. For example, the visible recognition of the value of accountability in the accounting department may be very different form the visible recognition of accountability in the production department.

This is why it is important that every unit in an organization defines two or three behaviors that align with the organization’s chosen values. The leaders of these units will then be able to ascertain the extent to which their employees are living the values of the organization.

How have you defined values and expected behaviors? Do you agree with the importance of expected behaviors and what can you add?

This post originally appeared on For more information consult, The Values-driven Organization: Unleashing Human Potential for Performance and Profit by Richard Barrett.