Under the surface of every team are the values driving each individual’s behavior. Rarely discussed, sometimes not even known to the individual, these values influence triggers, alliances, and ultimately team effectiveness. These unstated values impact every team in every organization. They can be leveraged when understood—or wreak havoc when ignored
The Power and Challenge of Team Values
The values present in a team present a treasure trove to leaders. When individual values align, it becomes a powerful catalyst for team synergy. Common language around values informs the team’s identity, roots out potential conflict, helps establish a collective way of engaging, and encourages a sense of belonging among team members. This alignment boosts team cohesion and enhances overall performance and productivity. It aligns efforts, facilitating collaboration, and cooperation.
However, just as team values can be a catalyst for success, dissonance between individual values can create a minefield for teams to navigate. When team members hold conflicting values and fail to find common ground, it leads to friction, misunderstandings, and conflicts within the team. Such dissonance can manifest in poor communication, lack of trust, and reduced collaboration. If left unaddressed, these issues can stagnate the team’s progress and frustrate leaders who are trying to drive positive outcomes.
Understanding the Team Value System
To harness the potential of values in the team, leaders must first gain a comprehensive understanding of the team’s value systems. This is different from identifying the values a team would like to live by collectively. Rather the system-level values exist as individual values commingle. Exploring this requires a two-step approach:
Step 1: Individual Value Assessment: Begin by identifying the values that drive each team member. Engage in discussions with team members to identify their core values, beliefs, and principles that guide their decisions and actions. Encourage transparency and openness during this process as it lays the foundation for understanding each individual’s perspective.
Step 2: Analyzing the Interplay: Once individual values are established, teams should explore how these values interact within the team system. Look for similarities and differences among team members’ values. Identify frequently named values that can be leveraged. Equally, address any divergent values to understand the potential sources of conflict and discord.
Navigating Differences and Building Bridges
When encountering divergent values within the team, leaders must proactively address them rather than ignore or suppress them. Here are some strategies to navigate differences and build bridges:
Facilitate Dialogue: Encourage open and respectful communication among team members to explore how their values are expressed at work. This dialogue can focus both on individual intent and how the value is experienced by team members, fostering empathy, understanding, and the discovery of common ground.
Leverage Complementarity: Embrace the diversity of values within the team and recognize how they can complement each other. For example, a team member who values autonomy can contribute fresh perspectives and innovation, while another who values teamwork can promote collaboration that expands on the innovative ideas. Reframe the conflict (real or potential) as an opportunity to bring balance.
Identify Themes: Engage the team in the process of identifying the collective themes that emerge from their individual values. What does the team need to be mindful of? What can it leverage? How are these themes playing out in the team?
High-performing teams recognize that values exist not only at the individual level but also within the team system. By understanding and leveraging the team’s values, leaders can create a high-performing environment where team members are understood and aligned. Embracing the diversity of values within the team and proactively addressing any dissonance empowers leaders to unlock the full potential of their teams and guide them toward greater success. The true power of individual values lies in the collective power they provide to the team.