Change Work August 2008

Could do better?

Your values give you away.

As we've noted before, what's important to you comes through in your language, tonality, gestures, posture and all other components of your communication behaviours.

What's it like when you're talking to someone who has an "agenda"?  Maybe it's your boss reviewing your work - perhaps a formal appraisal, perhaps a project meeting. You can tell what matters to them if they:

Contrast this with what it's like when you hear:

This sort of language tells you that the other person is interested in you and in what you're doing.  They're encouraging you to look at your own efforts objectively and they're making it safe for you to do so.  And if the words are accompanied by certain gestures and facial expressions, and are spoken in a certain tone, then you'll be inclined to believe in the speaker's sincerity.

So, when you're reviewing a team member's work, are you really concerned with them?  Or with:

Are these your real values?

It's easy to see how such sentiments can have a negative effect.  But sometimes, even very positive instincts can get in the way.

If you value peace, good relations or friendship, then it can be difficult to challenge someone to do better, to raise their expectations or goals.  You might fear risking the warm relationship that you have.

It can be hard to say "That's not good enough" - so you fudge and avoid ...  You focus on the problem or task at hand ... You take responsibility away from them.

If you're in any sense a supervisor, then it does your supervisee no good at all to avoid letting them know that they've fallen short. They'll go away thinking everything's fine.

But how to avoid a defensive reaction?

If you approach these situations (or every situation?) focused on the other's success, and you set their success as your goal (at least in that moment), then all of your non-verbal behaviours will automatically follow. Your body language will tell them that they are important to you. If you give value to them, rather than to the task or to your own status, you'll find that people will accept your constructive criticism and respond positively.

"Values" aren't just the big, eternal principles that only relate to big, social issues. They are everything that's important to you right now.  And you are free to choose them!

And along with "values" come "beliefs" ... a good subject for another time!