Oct
05
2014

Living the values: allowing variations to the norm?

Stopped the car, rearranged my Sunday morning: wanted to be able to listen with focus to the radio interview with Petra De Sutter. Professor at Ghent University, romantic partner, senator, transsexual, mom, and a series of other roles which she adopts.

She talks with a pleasantly calm, radiophonic voice.

A lot from what she says, strikes me.

‘Right before my transition from a man to a woman, a court ruling decided that it was better I shouldn’t see my son. I was not allowed to meet with him for one year. I still regard this as one of the biggest injustices done to me.’
Jokingly, about her new relationship that she deems excellent: ‘From a heterosexual man I turned into a lesbian woman’.
A better term for deviation is variation’ (with regards to gender dysphoria).


To what extent do we allow for variations in behaviour
in the context of people working together, complimenting, criticising, reconciling, doing tasks and projects together? What are the norms inside your micro-kosmoses where you partner up with others?

There is a lot of implicit behaviour about ethics taking place in organisations. It is useful to explicitly ask about what we expect from each other in terms of behaviour. And formulate what we expect instead of undesirable words or acts. Not as a one-off intellectual exercise, more as an updated practice. It makes relationships more healthy, more sustainable.

What are our values as an individual, as a team, as an organisation?
What behaviour do we find desirable and undesirable working together with each other, business partners, unions, existing and future clients?

Do we live up to these values and do we integrate them in our processes, such as recruitment and selection, promotions, succession, development? Or do we prefer to stick to value dressing, merely determining what are the values we wish for, put them into some code of conduct as a dead, static document? Just leave things at visualising the organisational values on a website or hung in an elevator, and never address each other about the values?

Team exercise:

– every team member writes down the 3 most important values for him/her (for instance ‘respect’, ‘sincerity’, ‘humour’)
– all team members including the leader explain to each other what they specifically mean with each of the 3 values, translating them into concrete behaviour (for instance, ‘respect to me is a) not interrupting each other in our daily 1-to-1 and team discussions’, b) ‘delivering tasks within the timeline we agreed’ and c) ‘giving credits to whom actually contributed to a task or project.’)
– questions to ask: what do we learn from this? what do we want as a team to be our 3 team values? how will we match them with the company’s overarching values, if ever these were made explicit? how do we address one another when we (don’t) see each other living the values? Etc.

The final call is for Oscar Wilde, a welcome variation to the norm during the Victorian era:

‘A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias.’