RLL 22: The Value of Values--Dealing With Adversity
This past week, my soccer team suffered its worst defeat in my five years in charge of the program, losing heavily to a cross-town rival. The very frustrating part was that we had just tied with this same team two weeks ago, and we thought we had a chance to actually beat them for the first time in years. Instead we lost 7-0, and it could have been worse. They outplayed us, outworked us, and it was clear that they had a lot more heart than we did on that particular night. So then the question became: what do we do to fix everything that went wrong? How do we deal with this adversity?
For any organization, the answer to those questions (How do we fix what is wrong? and How do we deal with adversity?) is in part already answered by the organization’s structure and values. But in part, the way an organization answers that question is also very much dependant upon how much the organization actually believes in and focuses on those values.
Let me illustrate: a couple of weeks ago, we had to do active shooter training at school, and one of the policemen in charge of the training made a great statement that I’d heard before but had not applied in this situation: people don’t rise to the occasion nearly as often as they fall to the level of their training, especially in high intensity and dangerous situations. Now, obviously, most of us are not going to be threatened with life or death situations on a daily basis (except people like policemen and firefighters, God bless and protect them). But I believe the statement is true for all of us: how we respond is in great part shaped by how well we have been trained and by the principles and values we stand for.
Human beings are creatures of habit, to the point where we often do not consciously think of what we are doing when responding to many given situations: we simply act in a way consistent with how we have responded to similar situations in the past until some new factor forces us to reevaluate our response. We brush our teeth the same way until we have too much sensitivity, then we change technique. We get gas at the same station until it’s unexpectedly closed on evening, and we have to ask ourselves where the next nearest station is. Thus, when real adversity arises, we will most likely respond however we have responded in the past, even if that response was not as helpful or productive as we would have liked.
How do we overcome this? By changing our habits to make them more consistent with our values, and by first making sure that our values are clear to our entire organization. With my soccer program, our motto is “Walk Worthy,” and it comes from a verse of Scripture that says, “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you were called” (Ephesians 4:1-3 is the whole passage of our motto). This means that in every situation, we are to comport ourselves in a way that is consistent with what we say we believe: love others, value them above ourselves, and treat other people with respect no matter the circumstances.
I’ll be the first to admit that I often fail at this; yet it is our value system nonetheless, and so every new day is also a new opportunity to try to live up to these values better than I did the day before. And so it is with my soccer program and with whatever organization you are a part of. Whatever the values of your company, institution, family, or corporation, they will in large part shape how you respond to and try to overcome adversity.
One note of warning, however: often, what we say we believe and what we actually do in practice are different things. So if your organization is one in which backbiting or deception is common, then no amount of talking about your values is going to help until those problems are dealt with.
But back to the point: I mentioned at the beginning that part of how your group deals with adversity is already answered by the structure and values of your organization. This is what I meant: whatever you stand for, whatever you believe, these will greatly shape your response. The second part is how well you implement what you say you believe, and thus is is imperative that we as leaders do two things: 1) make sure that our values are clear and are understood by everyone within our influence; and 2) stand by our values, even when it would be easier not to. As the comedian Jon Stewart said, “If you don’t stick to your values when they’re being tested, they’re not values; they’re hobbies.”
If you aren’t clear on what your group stands for, then make it a point to find out and educate your team on them before you face adversity. That way you have a starting point for dealing with the problem. Once you’re clear on your values, be sure to stand by them no matter the circumstances. Compromise is a great thing in terms of implementation of specific aspects of policy; but never compromise your values and beliefs.
Take a few moments this week to either figure out (if you don’t already know) or review (if you do know but have perhaps forgotten) your group’s core values and understand WHY they are your group’s values. Then make sure everyone on your team is clear about them as well. Be sure to email me and let me know how it goes and if I can help!