Monday, September 29, 2014

Six Rules of Living Your Values: Conclusion

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Over the last six weeks, I have tackled the six rules of living your values, as defined by Francois Nader, CEO of NPS Pharmaceuticals in this HBR blog post. Those rules, and my posts about them, are:

1. Define the values in simple, sixth-grade language.
2. Don’t post plaques on the wall declaring the values.
3. Teach people what the values mean.
4. Recruit people who naturally are inclined to live your values.
5. Make values a primary filter for performance evaluations.
6. Your values must be non-negotiable.

I have reflected on what my own association has or hasn't done with each, and have speculated, when appropriate, on what we might do differently.

So what, if anything, have I learned? Do I intend to do anything different as a result of this analysis, or was it was just was way to pass some time?


I was really struck by the importance of phrasing your values in the simplest language possible. As I described in that post, I think my organization's values already do a good job at passing that test, but that some of the behaviors we have defined to better describe how we intended each value to manifest in our actions could use some work. That's something I'm going to take a crack at, but I need to do something more than just circulate a new list of bullet points to everyone.

As I've reflected on where my organization has been and where it is going with its values, I have realized that the best use of the short-hand behaviors will not be as a checklist for everyone to modulate their actions by. That won't hurt, I suppose, but the best use of the short and pithy behavior statements will more likely be to help me intensify my own focus on our values.

I must, you see, do more to teach the people in my organization what the values really mean. I must publicly call out when people are and are not acting in accordance with them, and I must be ready for the discussions that come with each circumstance, knowing that both positive and negative examples will be educational.

And having sound bites instead of compound sentences is going to help me do this. When observing the actions of others, will it be easier to focus on instances of people "challenging prevailing assumptions, suggesting better approaches, and creating new ideas that prove useful," (the old language) or "trying new things and keeping what works" (the new language)? Clearly, the latter.

And what about governing my own behavior and that of my leadership team? The simpler language will prove more memorable, allowing us to act with greater intention and to more deliberately bake our values into the management decisions we must make--not only with regard to recruiting and evaluating our employees, but also in how we choose to lead the organization.

This exercise has been very helpful for me. It has given me not just a new perspective on how to help my organization live its values, but a renewed energy for doing so.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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