Values-Based Leadership: Making the Unconscious, Conscious
Gregory was fast-moving, high potential in his company. At the age of 36 he was a successful Sales Director leading a 13-person sales team, responsible for some of the biggest accounts his high tech firm depended on. After working under his current VP for the past 7 months, Gregory was fairly clear that he was meeting his targets and that Christine was satisfied with his performance. But he couldn’t shake the feeling that she was looking for something more from him. At his annual performance evaluation, he got the message he’d been dreading... Christine explained to him that although his results were there, the way that he achieved those results was not in line with the company’s core values. He needed to change.
All learning, behaviour and change is unconscious. That is, the unconscious part of our minds digests learning, drives behaviour and initiates the change that we seek. We may well consciously set a goal and take action on that goal, but our unconscious mind is running patterns and programs that affect that action, far beneath our conscious awareness. Values-based leadership is the process of making the unconscious, conscious. Then once the new, desired patterns and programs are created, allowing the unconscious to run them once again, so that we don’t need to expend valuable time or energy on them.
Values and beliefs drive behaviour, and behaviour drives performance. If we want to increase performance, the most effective and sustainable way to do that is by aligning with, or shifting, values. And values are the most unconscious of our unconscious programs. Two of the prime directives of the unconscious mind are to store memories and to store values and beliefs. In order to change behaviour and performance in a lasting way, we need to uncover our personal values to work with them.
Values-based leadership is a competency. When our values are out of our awareness, we’re operating in unconscious incompetence. We then shine a spotlight on our values, by taking a Leadership Development Report assessment or an Individual Values Assessment, and uncover values that are not serving us (potentially limiting values) or values that are overlooked, we move into conscious incompetence.
As we choose new values, and identify and practice the new behaviours required to align with our values, we enter conscious competence. And for those so inclined, we can deliberately shift the desired values in our values hierarchy, at the unconscious level, which immediately drives behaviour that’s in alignment with the new values. Ultimately with conscious practice, or values hierarchy shifting, we move into unconscious competence in values-based leadership.
Decision-making is a great example of an unconscious program at work. In early times, people made decisions based on instinct. Survival depended on instinct-based decisions that were undoubtedly at the unconscious level. As humanity evolved, we began making decision based on beliefs – again, unconscious programs. Belief-based decision making is focused on beliefs that were formed by past experience. When x happened, then y was the result, therefore I believe that x causes y, so I base my decision on this knowledge.
Values-based decisions are not concerned with what has happened in the past, and they require a conscious pause in order to prevent falling in default (belief-based decision) mode. A values-based leader asks “What is the choice that will be in greatest alignment with our core values?” and in doing so, opens up to new possibilities that are not based on past results. Values-based decisions are expansive, innovative and serve to create the future that is wanted.
Gregory embarked on a Leadership Development Report assessment, on Christine’s request, and received profound feedback from the 17 peers, subordinates and superiors who completed the assessment about his behaviours as they related to the corporate values. Armed with this analysis, Gregory was able to see how his behaviour was isolating his team from other departments and distancing his clients, resulting in lost opportunities for collaboration and innovative solutions. Within 10 months of Gregory’s values-based leadership work, his team’s results were up 28%.
Making the unconscious, conscious through values-based leadership is the key to high performance.
NOTE: Please visit the Institute for Values-Based Leadership website again soon as we will be offering a new on-line program which combines Individual Values (IVA) and Leadership Development (LDR) Assessment Tools by the Barrett Values Centre with analysis of results and support to enhance competencies via valuable one on one coaching with Sue McKee, featured in this blog post.