Discerning values, how they are made and then consistently living them, helps embed them in an organisation’s culture. A great workplace is a successful one

 By Neil Scotton and Alister Scott

Last week, a leader in a client organisation shared a story from a conference they had been to. “The speaker, a CEO, stood up and said, ‘There are three loves in my life – my family, my work and business being a force for good in the world’. How good is that!”

The speaker had touched our client and they were deeply affected, impressed and indeed inspired. When we stand up for something, we stand out.

Perhaps it resonated even more for our client because of what brought us together originally – their organisation wanted to stand out from its professional competitors. It wanted to be an employer of choice. It wanted an even more engaged, motivated, highly effective workforce that really enjoyed their work, so they do it well and with enthusiasm and care – and attract and retain great talent and great clients.

Our journey together began with legacy-thinking based questions to first discern what was important – their values. Then how these are made real in the world – the behaviours. Then how to consistently live them – embedding them in the fabric and culture of the organisation. They, too, are now standing up and standing out. The result – they’re winning ‘Best place to work’ type awards and are indeed attracting and retaining great talent and clients. Standing for something is helping them succeed in business.

Of course, standing up for something can be risky. You can attract criticism. You are holding yourself accountable for your own behaviours to be aligned with your words. It’s not for everyone. But there are benefits.

We notice that when we go to conferences and coaching gatherings the people sharing their thoughts about this column are most often ‘stand up, stand out’ people. Generalising wildly, there are two main camps. One is highly experienced coaches. Interestingly, often they have served in the profession in some way – leading a coaching community, for example. They see beyond the immediate issue, beyond the journey of growth and transformation of the client, and into the ‘what is it we are truly creating through these conversations?’ Big thinking. Many are on the edge, or indeed well along the path, of stand up, stand out (evidenced, for example, by them being invited to speak on the topic they stand for).

That’s easy for such experienced coaches – they have long client lists or a good position within an organisation, a reputation grown over time and all sorts of other factors that enable them to feel safe to explore and take a view on such matters.

Newer coaches need to survive, and any client, with any issue, is a good client. Which is true. Maslow’s triangle. Basic needs before self-actualisation. And interesting. Because a second generalised ‘group’ is very new coaches. They have a real calling in their coaching work. They do not want to be seen as a commodity, as a Martini (anyone, anytime, anywhere, any subject) coach. So their positioning and personal branding speaks to a niche or values above and beyond the self-interest of themselves or indeed their clients. They, too, are looking towards standing up, standing out.

So perhaps Maslow’s triangle can stand either way – when you’ve got safety you can do the higher things. Flipping the triangle, aligning yourself with the higher things that matter to you can be the first step to safety – doing what you’re really good at with those you want to do it with, to build your reputation and contacts, to do even more of it.

Stand up, stand out. In these times, what’s calling you?


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