Know Thy Team: 5 Ways You Can Lead Better by Respecting What Others Value

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–The next time you witness a fight over something that seems totally frivolous to you, remember this post.–



Photo courtesy of 89studio at


Have you ever experienced a situation like this one?: A CEO walks into a staff meeting and announces to her team that the company has exceeded its quarterly financial goals and now they need to decide how to use the excess profits. She asks for a show of hands to determine whether the profits should be distributed as cash bonuses or used to purchase new furniture for the whole office.  When it comes out to a split vote the CEO is astonished to see her team of usually subdued professionals begin arguing and shouting at one another. Finally, someone louder than everyone else shouts in frustration, “Who gives a $#&! about furniture?!”


But the core of this argument isn’t really about furniture. It’s about a difference in values.


Take a look at the following list. Can you guess the values of people who wanted new furniture?  What about those who voted for a raise?


Fairness Balance Autonomy Self-reliance Loyalty Security Order
Creativity Merit Openness Optimism Perfection Teamwork Solitude
Status Strength Success Results Sacrifice Reciprocity Adventure
Compassion Diversity Equality Excellence Atmosphere Skill Sincerity
Beauty Gratitude Relaxation Honesty Peace Exploration Discipline


Here are five ways you can lead better (and avoid situations like the one above) by respecting what your team members value [click to tweet]:



  1. Never belittle or trivialize what someone else values [click to tweet].

    Always remember that values can’t be stupid; they’re informed by an individual’s deepest beliefs and most profound experiences.  When you say (implicitly or explicitly) that someone’s values are stupid, you’re being insensitive about both of these aspects of a person. (Remember the chart below or review last week’s post for more on beliefs and values.)


  2. If you want to know what someone values, just ask and observe [click to tweet].

    Don’t play psychologist by trying to dig down into someone’s past experiences or beliefs in order to understand their values. Every individual’s values are important for leaders to understand, not how their employees arrived at them.

  3. Avoid demonizing those whose values differ from your own [click to tweet].

    Understanding why people do what they do will allow you and your team to empathize with one another and resolve conflicts more quickly. Fighting over values is unproductive and creates resentment.

  4. While conflicts arising from a clash of values are some of the most intense, not all conflict is due to a difference in values [click to tweet].

    Conflict can also stem from differences in personality, how individuals operate, and stressful events and situations.

  5. Understanding what an employee values is the key to finding where he or she fits on your team [click to tweet].

    Once you understand what your employees value, you will understand how best to motivate them. This will also help you know who should do what work and how they should be permitted to do it.



 Please feel free to chime in. How has understanding the values of your team contributed to your work as a leader?

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