The Role Of Values In Decision Making

Jul 02, 2019

The Role Of Values In Decision Making

As a leader you're tasked with making decisions on a daily basis. And there is an expectation that you can & should align your values with those of your organisation. But the reality is that there are times when I believe that it's possible to do so and times when it isn’t, and that's ok. Because sometimes making the best decision won’t always feel like the right decision.


When it comes to aligning the behaviour of a c-suite executive with what's required of an organisation, what role do values play?

In my experience if I turned around to a group of people and said 'tell me your top 5 values right now' what would happen is this: some would list off a couple of values really quickly, and for some they would be true values, for others they would be values that they're expected to have like trust, integrity, family and things like that. Many would not be able to give me their top 5 and for most, if I told them that I have a deck of cards with 72 different values on them, they wouldn't have a clue what most of those values would be.

What does that mean for you?

That when it comes to making best decisions if you're not clear about who you are, if you don't fully accept who you are, if you don't like who you are, it means that when you make decisions, and often when we make decisions they’re based upon good research and gut instinct, that gut instinct might not be guiding us as effectively as it could.


Know Your Values

One of the things I think is really important to do is to get clear on your top 5 values. Coupled with that, what you need to do is place those values in order of importance.  If we list our top 5 values we tend to list them in a linear way but if it actually came down to it there are values that would take precedence over other values. There will be times when you have to make a decision and one of those values would override another value.


Values Influence Our Decision Making

Values influence us making the best decision. And here's the thing. Our values are very important to us, but just because a particular value is important to me, doesn't mean it's the right value for the organisation, or has the same level of importance for an organisation. Sometimes as a leader you have to make a best decision for an organisation and on occasions that may mean compromising a value that's important to you.

One of my values is Family and I'd never make a decision that would hurt my family but what if making a business decision meant hurting someone else's family ? What if you had to make the decision to close down a plant that would hurt hundreds of families ? If Family is one of your values, how do you handle that ?

Let's imagine that Honesty is listed as one of your values, for the majority of people that would be listed but at different stages we are not completely honest all of the time. Sometimes that lack of honesty means that we don't give a client every bit of information to make a proper and informed decision but rather that they make a decision that we would like them to make.

Maybe sometimes it's something that I accuse my teenage son of ...... that's lying by omission i.e. you haven't told me the full truth !!


Values Are Subjective

The other thing about values is that they’re subjective.   I could turn around and say that integrity is one of the cornerstones for me, but it might not be for you, for you bottom line profitability might be much more important. As a result you're prepared to cut corners to achieve your goal whereas I would struggle with that compromise.

But one of the things that's very important when operating at this level is being open to having our values questioned which may require us to compromise so we make the best decision for the business, our people & our customers.  It's about not being so rigidly attached to your values that ultimately you will end up making bad decisions.


Make The Best Decision Possible 

As leaders in key positions you have your set of values and sometimes those values are different to the values of the organisation and often the question that gets asked is how do you align your values with those of the organisation but actually maybe you don't or maybe it's ok not to align them every time or maybe sometimes it's finding the right way to align them.

I would encourage you to recognise that, in the leadership position you hold there will often be a conflict between your values and the values of the organisation, and that's ok. While many of the decisions that you have to make will be difficult and will be challenging, your responsibility is only to make the best decisions possible.


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