From Ideal to Real: How to Close the Values Gap

How to Close the Values Gap by Dr. Greg Waddell]

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Values are deeply held beliefs about ultimate desired outcomes and how to achieve them. We all have them; unfortunately, what we say we value often does not match what our behavior says we value. This is the difference between ideal values and real values. The one we use to justify and explain our behavior; the other actually drives our behavior.

Not only individuals, but also organizations often proclaim one set of values while their behavior exhibits another. I drove past a church building one Saturday evening and read the name on their sign. It was something like “The Friendly Community Church.” The facility had a circular driveway and at both ends of the driveway a chain extended across the entrance with a sign shouting: “No Trespassing.”

I’m not talking here about hypocrisy; that’s a different animal. Hypocrisy is a form of lying, proclaiming we value something fully knowing we don’t believe it. What I’m talking about is a natural human process of development where we become aware of new truth, espouse this truth intellectually, and then begin to walk the road toward making it a reality in our personal experience.

We rarely, if ever, achieve a complete integration between what we say and what we do — but the closer we get, the more likely we are to become high-capacity individuals who accomplish great things for our organizations, churches, and the world. Our soul is in alignment when this happens; our actions reflect what we say, what we believe, and what we think we believe.

In leadership, we face this duality of human nature. One of our purposes as leaders is to help people move from ideal values into the reality of those values.

We find an illustration of this in the Gospel of Mark where a man comes to Jesus and asks him to heal his son. The man says: “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” Jesus responded: “What do you mean if you can? All things are possible to him who believes.” To this, the man responded: “I do believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

“Help my unbelief!” The man was crying out for leadership, for someone to show him how to become a more integral person, whose declared values and functional values are the same. This is one of the most important services a leader can perform for people. Following is a list of actions you can take to accomplish this.

  1. Reward what you value. Often, the individual is not at fault when a wide gap persists between ideal values and real values. The organization itself perpetuates this situation by inadvertently rewarding the values it does not espouse and punishing those it does. Take, for example, the classic situation where the manager claims to believe in the empowerment of her subordinates; but whenever they have a difficulty, she rushes to their rescue, thus affirming their dependence and her superiority.
  2. Measure what you value. If we value something, we must find ways to measure the extent to which that value is actually functioning. If we don’t measure, we can’t know whether we are behaving according to our declared values.
  3. Model what you value. Values are more caught than they are taught; we absorb them from the people we admire and with whom we spend time. This is why coaching and mentoring are so important in the development of people. The only way we can influence the values of another person is by spending time with them and giving them a living example of what we’re talking about.
  4. Design life experiences of what you value. Words alone can never move people from espoused values to real values. We must provide opportunities to experience the reality of the values we espouse. In this way, experience becomes confirmation and confirmation moves our values into the realm of conviction. We do this by providing them with real-time experiences that reinforce and give body to the theory. Our theoretical values are like empty recipients into which life must be poured so that they take on meaning.

Leaders are always looking for ways to unlock the hidden potential in people. One of the most effective things we can do to achieve this is to help people embed the values they espouse into their hearts and experience. Leaders who understand and practice this simple principle will develop high-capacity individuals and high-capacity organizations.

provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.

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