The Importance of Values

A while back, when I was conducting a training session for an organisation with which we do regular business, I noticed a little booklet that outlined the Values of the organisation. It had been left behind by someone who had used the room before me. As someone who teaches management courses, amongst other things, I was interested in reading about the organisation’s values.

It was coffee break when I saw the booklet, so when the session resumed, I asked if it would be ok for me to keep the leaflet. The senior person said that it would be fine and then began to tell me that every person in their organisation receives 45 minutes of training on the content of the booklet, every year.

Here are the Values that were outlined in that booklet:

  • Courage – Be brave enough to do the right thing, no matter what
  • Discipline – Set a good example
  • Respect – Treat others the way you’d want to be treated
  • Integrity – Be honest and never lie, cheat or steal
  • Loyalty – Look after your colleagues and stick with them
  • Commitment – Put the team and the mission before yourself

It is an excellent set of values, but it really surprised me that the organisation felt it necessary to expose every individual to this amount of training, on this subject, every year. His answer also surprised me. He said,

“What you need to understand is that we recruit people from the lowest stratum of society where these values are no longer taught by parents.”

It made me think.

Which if those values was I taught by my parents I wondered? Looking down that list, I would say that ‘respect’ and ‘integrity’ were definitely lessons I learned directly from my parents (see this post where I wrote about the principle of honesty). But what about the others?

One, time I remember falling out with my best friend for a short while – probably just a few hours really – but I also remember that it was my parents who told me not to be so silly. They encouraged me to ‘make-up’. They told me about the value of having good friends and sticking by them. So, I guess I can add ‘loyalty’ and ‘commitment’ to the values they passed on to me.

That leaves ‘courage’ and ‘discipline’. Now, my mum came from a quite poor family which hailed from Glasgow. They lived in one of those infamous tenement blocks and, as a consequence, despite being small, slight and female, she could certainly look after herself. I would certainly say she was indeed a brave, or courageous, person.

There was one time in my childhood that I remember getting into a fight with another boy. I blacked his eye (I am not proud of doing so) and his mother came to our house to complain to my parents. Whilst my dad was all ready to tear strip off me just for fighting, my mum was much more philosophical about it. She basically told my dad that they couldn’t keep telling me that I needed to fight my own battles and then admonish me for doing so.

Now, although I don’t think of myself as a courageous person, thinking about it, the answer is ‘yes’, they did teach me to try to be courageous, at least. So that leaves ‘discipline’. Did they manage to teach me that? I would certainly say that I had the most difficulty with this lesson. That does not mean they did not try to teach me its importance. My dad was all for discipline and, as I recall, I was entirely opposed to the concept.

So they did their best to teach me the value of discipline. They knew that the Boy’s Brigade would be good for me, partly for that reason. Sure, I wanted to join for the football and the other great activities we got involved in, such as camping, squadron races, gymnastics and so on. But, part of the deal was that you had to go to church, you got the opportunity to join the band and you had to get involved in square-bashing (drill). Engaging in these latter activities, I would say, eventually taught me the value of discipline.

All in all, I would say my parents did a great job on me. I don’t think I was always a good student, but despite that, they were loving and caring parents who did their level best to bring me up to be a responsible adult. I just hope that I did half as good a job in the process of bringing up my own kids.

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