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The Teaching Moment of Applying Values to Problems
Inexperienced team members or those new to the team often confront gnarly problems where the solution is not obvious, at least to them.
In order to resolve or manage the problem, they naturally reach out to leaders for guidance and assistance. Rather than simply giving them the answer, the best leaders use the opportunity and treat it as an important teaching moment.
Asking the team member to consider the problem in light of what the organization stands for and to apply the values of the team directly to the problem can turn on light bulbs. Turning to the list of team values and then suggesting that they pre-load a solution to the problem both instills the values and shows how powerful they are.
Good leaders still resist telling others how to apply these values but instead ask them to do an initial calculus themselves. Once team members understand how practical the values truly are, they appreciate why the organization worked so hard to create them in the first place.
Of course, this teaching moment presumes a leader can point to a succinct set of values or guiding principles that have long been socialized and accepted within the team.
When team values are just a set of empty words and lofty aspirations, they can’t easily be applied in any practical way. Teams and organizations with compelling and authentic values offer both the leader and the team member a path to solve or manage any problem in a manner that reaffirms the culture.
Solving problems with values in mind is what leaders do almost without thinking. Showing others how to deploy team values to confront challenges is a way of bringing the culture and what it stands for alive.
Because organizational cultures directly reflect the values team members express daily, this exercise is more important than first meets the eye. Applying values to address problems is something every leader and team member can and should get better at. Any solutions not tied to values are a miss of cultural proportions.