The Law of Identity

Shared Values Benefit the Team

Have you ever endured the disunion that sometimes comes along with quick expansion in an organization? When this happens, a small team that almost exclusively characterized itself through relationships now is large and requires more definition to stay together. The Law of Identity becomes important here: Shared values benefit the team. With that law, despite some members of a team not sharing similar backgrounds or having personal affiliations with each other, they might maintain a tight-knit connectedness that withstands the largeness of the team. What is needed for cohesion is a unifying vision (The Law of the Compass) and shared values (which can be fostered through business coaching). If team members clasp onto the same values, members can still feel connected to each other and to the bigger team, in Minneapolis, where we’re located, or elsewhere.

Maybe you’ve experienced a team that has a common goal, yet has a shortfall in common values. Each person on the team thinks their own thoughts about what’s significant. The consequence is disorder. If everyone seeks their own approach, sooner or later, the team will be torn apart. To combat that consequence, team members need to be thinking along the same lines. In the way that personal values regulate a person’s actions, so organizational values regulate the team’s actions.


The Worth of Values

Values unite and activate a team. Think of shared values as. . .


Every team experiences problematic situations – during those times values hold the team together. Take, for instance, a marriage. It’s simple for partners to remain united when they are first in love and their life is uncomplicated. But sooner or later the ardor that brought them together wanes and troubles appear. It’s values that keep the couple together during these times. Their values supersede their changeable feelings. They find that their marriage is so important to them, that they strive for its success. It’s this type of attitude that produces strong marriages.

That's equally true for other teams. The team members need to know what their values are – and act in accordance with them – so that their potential as a team is maximized.

A Basis

To function together and to flourish, every team needs solidity. Values serve as that solid basis. This is accurate for developing any type of affiliation. For instance, if you are beginning an affiliation with a person from another country, you start by considering what is similar about both of you. If you are attempting to sell something to a prospective customer, you look for what you have in common. This works in team building, too. A team needs stability, and values make a strong basis for stability.

A Measuring Stick

Values aid in establishing the benchmark for a team’s achievements. In organizations, values are usually conveyed in a mission statement. Said Stephen Covey, “A mission statement is not something you write overnight... But fundamentally, your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your vision and values. It becomes the criterion by which you measure everything else in your life.” For an individual or for a team member, values impact outcomes.


A Compass

When a person takes up solid values, they hold a moral compass that aids them in making choices. This fact applies to teams, also. If the team finds and holds onto a suite of values, then no matter what happens, the team members will still have confidence that they are progressing and making good choices. Values impact direction.

A Magnet

The values of a team draw like-minded people to the team. Consider some of the teams you’ve seen. For example, what kind of people does the nonprofit Relay for Life attract? People who want to see cancer eliminated. What kind of people does the job of business coaching attract? People who want to see their clients’ businesses profit. Like attracts like.

To emphasize this point, let’s go back to the mission statement. A mission statement does more than convey values. Says American business executive, Dan Schulman, “If you want to have the best employees, there really needs to be a vision and a mission. Talent looks for a mission.” Values impact who comes onto the team.

An Identity

What you believe distinguishes the team and bestows on it a distinctive identity – to team members, job seekers, customers and the community. Your values label who you are.

Adding Value to the Team

Here’s a process to bring forth your team’s values to increase your team’s capabilities.

  • Express the values. Take some time to think about the team’s values, perhaps as a team. Then commit them to a document.

  • Measure values against the team’s methods. Observe the team’s actions. Ensure the values you express are the ones you and the team are using. When relied on, the team’s values support the team’s drive and success.

  • Educate the team on values. After you’ve determined your values, educate your team on them. The education needs to happen continuously, plainly and inventively.

  • Apply the values. Values are useful only if they are used. When you find team members who aren’t applying the team’s stated values, aid those team members in adjusting their actions to line up with the rest of the team.

  • Make the values an organizational convention. Build the team’s values into the framework of the team. For example, at Experience Leadership’s (EL’s) weekly organizational meeting, each team member spends sixty seconds expressing something that was important to them that week. This exercise embraces EL’s core value of Passion, which is: We are committed to exploring the limits of our potential by releasing the unique gifts within.

  • Openly applaud the values. Praise induces action. If you commend the team members who exemplify the values of the organization, those values will be adopted by the other members of the team.

If you are the team leader, I strongly recommend that you guide your team through this method. Without your direction, team members will fashion an identity they prefer. In this case, whatever the outcome, the values of the most persuasive person on the team will turn into the team’s values. To not let this difficulty happen, apply each of the six steps above and repeat them continuously. You’ll see the values of your people change, and your organization will accept the identity that you put before it. Once your people embrace a shared team identity, they will operate in a more unified way, even as the business expands and transforms itself.

Be a Better Team Member

Sharing your team’s values is important if you want to combine your talent with your teammates. Start by knowing what the team’s values are. Next, compare your values to them. If you can thoroughly agree with the team’s values, pledge to support them enthusiastically. If you are at odds with some or all of the team’s values, then your lack of support of the values will be persistently aggravating to you and your teammates. If this is the case, you may want to relocate to another team.


Be a Better Team Leader

As an organization’s leader, you are accountable for maintaining the team’s values. As their guide, follow these steps:

  • Understand the organization’s values.

  • Model the values.

  • Convey the values to the team.

  • Praise the teammates who exhibit the values.

Understand that the procedure takes time. It can be difficult to align all the team members with the organization’s values. However, becoming a better leader will make the process easier.

The ideas in this blog post were taken from John Maxwell’s book, The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork.