Values – Lost in Translation

A sign seen in a Paris hotel elevator said

Please leave your values at the front desk

How easily we can change the meaning of a message by a small misinterpretation. This can happen even in our own language. In terms of leadership, there is a more serious aspect to consider.

Do you leave your values at the front desk when you come to work?

The evidence shows that integrity is the key characteristic of successful leaders. You only have to look at the current financial and political arenas to see the impact of lack of integrity on credibility.

When you are under pressure at work, do you stick by your values or do you let them slide? Do you even give your self time to think about your values and how you apply them in the workplace?

When we ask our delegates what are their values, the majority say that honesty is a key value for them. Yet when challenged further, they will often admit they do not give honest feedback on an employee’s performance, will avoid conflict; and say yes they can do something when they haven’t really got the time.

It is easy to start with good intent to live our values, but under pressure, they can be put to one side. Perhaps that is because it takes effort to live them. Is that what makes a good leader, that they will stick by their values no matter what?

I heard Robert Swan, a polar explorer, speak at a conference, and he said “You cannot put integrity on your business card until you have earned it”. Yet, like the ice he walked on, one wrong step with integrity, and you can slip into an abyss of mistrust. You may not have intended to slip. The problem is we judge ourselves by our intentions, others will judge us by our behaviours.

The reason behind the sign to leave your valuables at the front desk is to avoid theft. In the case of your values at work, you may prefer to keep them close and cherish them. Beware of them being stolen by the ethics or cynicism of others. As a leader, you can motivate your team by understanding and respecting their values too. You can create a culture of integrity. I believe our society is desperate for a new focus on integrity and credible leaders. A credible leader is more important than a charismatic one.

Why not take time to think about your values, why they are important to you and how you can keep them with you at all times? You may like to share your thoughts with us. Whatever you do, please do not leave your values at the front desk.

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