Founder and Director of Magma Effect Limited, Jackie Le Fèvre will conduct a workshop in February about effectively communicating your values and the impact they make. In this blog, she writes about tapping into values and making them the core of your communications.
A narrated version of this blog is available at the bottom of the page
Small word: big question.
In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl wrote: “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
We humans are paradoxical beings. We are highly dextrous, can function alone or as part of groups of varying sizes and have a lifelong capacity to learn. And yet, though adaptable and flexible we crave certainty. We frequently seek to set what was, what is and what will be in stone: somehow we feel better when we know.
Few, if any, of us have lived through a period of time when general uncertainty was higher than it is these days. There is so much we do not know: when there will be an approved vaccine which enjoys the confidence of the public, how well the vaccine(s) will work, when enough people will have been vaccinated for tiers and other restrictions to disappear, what work will look and feel like then, what life will look and feel like then; and that’s all before we reflect upon the changes that surely must come inspired by #BlackLivesMatter and how to seriously get to work on the climate crisis.
For leaders of organisations, whether within or outside the voluntary and community sector, this poses a challenge. At a time when those around us are understandably hungry for certainty we may feel we have little to offer given the scale of circumstances beyond our control. There is some good news which is that every organisation has internal resources which can be tapped by leaders to help us through: values and stories.
Values are present in every organisation irrespective of whether they have been written down in reports or pinned up on walls. Priority values are those emotionally rich and energy-laden ideas about what matters most to people like us in a place like this. Values unconsciously guide decision making, relationship building and communications both internally and externally. Core values are the ones that matter so very, very much they are never compromised. Few CEO’s or chairs in my experience really harness the full power of the values of their charity. Values have two particular properties that give them potency for these times:
- Conscious connection with priority values has been shown by research to buffer us from the physiological effects of stress – in plain English when we act with our values in mind we produce less harmful hormones and hold on to our capacity to think clearly.
- Using core values as the scaffolding for messaging internally and externally gives the things we need to say a coherence which creates a kind of certainty. When messaging is coherent: reinforcing that things that used to matter still matter, and will continue to matter as we go forward, we feel less buffeted by the forces outside of ourselves.
Stories are also present in every organisation. Irrespective of whether you use the founding story to reconnect people with the purpose of the work or share a more recent story of overcoming a problem to ensure delivery of service to those you exist to support to show that progress can be made: stories have impact. Why do stories work better than lists of facts or numbers?
- Story has a rhythm and a structure with which we are all familiar and that makes the information they contain much easier to receive and to remember
- Stories make the abstract concrete and relatable; we can see ourselves and others through the lens of story where it is harder to feel connected to a plan or list of outputs.
Put values and stories together and you have something really hot.
Research in Australia in 2010 showed that when organisations show congruence between the values it says it has and the actual values that are lived it, people’s commitment to the organisation is strengthened. When it does what it says on the tin in the way that we expect it to be done our confidence increases and we can feel more certain about the future. By collecting, curating, sharing and developing stories which have as their explanatory golden thread the core values showing ‘why’ we work this way leaders can support people inside and outside their organisations to handle ‘how’ we need to do things now.
Returning to Viktor Frankl for a moment, he also wrote “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Put your core values to work through the medium of story as the stimulus and the responses which follow may well amaze you
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