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About the Author
Caela Farren, Ph. D.
, President of MasteryWorks, is a leading career development authority providing solutions to large and mid-size companies, including Sprint, Lockheed-Martin, and Capitol One. MasteryWorks provides enterprise web portals, training, consulting, and an assessment framework for employees and managers. For more than 30 years, Dr. Farren has been a tireless advocate around complex issues redefining the workplace. She envisioned the current workplace climate by more than a decade, when she published the book, “Who is Running Your Career: Creating Stable Work in Unstable Times” (Bard Press, 1997). Through MasteryWorks, she oversees solutions that create the foundation for impact-filled “career conversations” - centered on increased contribution, performance, and fit. Her strategic approach consistently delivers on employee engagement and retention goals for her clients

Contact Tom Karl, Executive Vice President for more information - or (703) 256-5712.
Article Archives
Are You Living Your Values? Is Your Organization?
by Caela Farren, Ph.D., MasteryWorks, Inc.


When values are out of sync, employees may disengage, leave, or experience less job satisfaction.
As little children many of us were urged by our parents to: “not interrupt”, “be kind to our friends”, “share”, “listen”, “tell the truth”, “take care of those with less”, “no TV until homework is finished” , “help your neighbor” and so on. These admonitions taught us some of our basic values – kindness, generosity, respect, truthfulness, learning, service and honesty. We learned our values in our homes and communities. And these shared values gave shape to our budding character.

But, as little children we were also very intuitive. We were keen observers. We watched what our parents and other family members “did” not just listened to what they “said.” And that’s how we really learned our core values. Actions speak louder than words and we saw and felt the difference. We may have asked questions as to why they didn’t act the way they said we should. Perhaps we created some reflection on their parts. More than likely, however, we just kept quiet. And, we made our own decisions about what guiding principles we’d live by.

We re-examine our values as adults. We hold on to some values from our families and let  go of others. We may bring other values into our daily lives. Ask yourself the questions: What is really important to me? What do I deeply care about? What do I believe should drive my life? And, you will discover your core values. Take a minute and list your own top ten values.

The clearer you are, the more smartly you will choose friends, activities, work and leisure that closely align to your values. Living your values results in peace, happiness, less stress and good health.

Why Are Values So Important?
Values are our beliefs, guiding principles, the motivational constructs that guide our day-to-day decisions and actions. Our deep-rooted values shape our preferred or habitual ways of satisfying our needs, whether we’re aware of it or not. Every one of our actions is guided by one or more values. Think about two or three decisions you’ve made in the past week. Write them down. List the values that drove those decisions.

Our values tell us what’s appropriate in different work, community and social situations. They are inspirational in nature - goals that we shoot for in living our lives. We decide in every situation how to bring our values to life – honesty, generosity, excellence, sustainability, respect, kindness, truthfulness, family, volunteerism, etc.. Sometimes it’s easy, actions are deeply ingrained in our bodies. In other situations, when our values are misaligned with our organization, friends, family or country, we struggle to be true to our values. And, this struggle, if frequent, can create stress and many times, sickness and disease.

Our values drive our individual and collective responses to the many local and global disasters and problems we are facing – health care, security, world hunger, environment, energy, immigration, and economic breakdowns to name a few. Look at a crisis you really care about. Reflect on how you are personally coping with or caring for it. What values are guiding your actions? Are you being true to yourself?

Are Values Important in Our Organization?
A recent MasteryWorks study[1] of 170 managers and executives found that the “topic of values was important in organizations” for 86% of the participants. Of the respondents, 88% had a list of Organization Values. In the past ten years more and more organizations have spent time and energy defining and communicating their values. Values differentiate one organization from another and partially define the culture. More and more senior executives identify values as a top issue in their companies’ strategic priorities. Employees look to leaders and managers to live the values they espouse. And, 90% of the participants in the MasteryWorks study[2] claimed that the leader’s values were very important or extremely important in shaping the organizational culture.

According to a 2005 study by Booze Allen Hamilton and The Aspen Institute “more firms are taking actions to turn their corporation’s values into a competitive asset.”[3] Participants in the MasteryWorks study[4] stated that values impacted the following five factors:
©2010 MasteryWorks, Inc.
In an age of transparency, leaders are under the microscope for living and leading consistent with their values. The recent scandals on Wall Street that have contributed to our economic breakdown shone a light on the inconsistencies between values posted by organizations and day-to-day business actions. Only time will tell whether these inconsistencies impact the above five factors.

Playing the Sentinel Role
In 1994, Collins and Poras, authors of Built to Last (HarperBusiness), noted that great companies are "guided by a core ideology – core values and sense of purpose beyond just making money." Since that time and the ensuing executive retreats, we find core values stated in charters, corporate vision statements, on websites and in annual reports. Values can differentiate one organization from another. Do the value statements stand the test of observant employees? We as Human Resource professionals and leaders can be sentinels for values discordance – if what’s said is not lived and honored by our leaders and key managers – we can blow the whistle and suggest practices more in keeping with the core values.

Test Your Own Organization's Congruence
Pull out your organization core values, principles, vision statement or other document that reflects the stated values of your organization. They may be similar to several below:

  • Innovative
    We are highly creative and strive to connect new ideas with business realities.
  • Integrity
    Integrity is at the heart of everything we do. We are honest, ethical and upfront because trust is at the foundation of our relationships with our customers, our communities, our stakeholders and each other.
  • Respect
    We know it is critical that we respect everyone at every level of our business. We champion diversity, embrace individuality and listen carefully when others speak.
  • Service
    We provide world class service levels that exceed our clients' requirements and expectations with solutions that enable them to succeed in their businesses.

Do the following
  • List the core values of your organization.
  • Rank how well you think these values are lived/embodied in the organization.
  • For low scores, come up with 4-5 suggestions or actions you can take to bring this discrepancy to light.
  • Determine any negative consequences of this discordance for employees, shareholders or customers.

You might do the same thing for your own Core Values. The more you can live them fully in work and home life, the healthier and happier you’ll be.

1. “Importance of Values in Organizations Survey Report,” MasteryWorks, Inc., 2010, page 2.

2. “Importance of Values in Organizations Survey Report,” page 3.

3. “Deriving Value from Corporate Values”, Chris Kelly, Paul Kocourek, Nancy McGaw, Judith Samuelson, The Aspen Institute and Booz Allen Hamilton, 2005.

4. “Importance of Values in Organizations Survey Report,” page 4.



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