by Juliet Hancock

Working with the personal values of others

Effective managers use everyday conversation as a catalyst for understanding the values of people and motivating them.

Managers manage people in the here and now. To get the best from people, a good manager recognises that everyone’s values are different and that what is motivational and meaningful for one person will be different for another. Whatever is going on, a manager needs be able to help individuals to be the most effective they can be at work.

Connecting with the values of others

Day-to-day people management and managing effective relationships requires conversations which include what is important to others – through questions and listening to what is said (or is not said).

For example, when recognising/acknowledging achievements, ask

  • What was particularly satisfying about their work/that task?
  • Why are they pleased with certain achievements?
  • What did they take away from it?
  • What could have made the task easier, quicker?
  • What additional support would be useful?
  • What else would they like to do in that area of work?

When things haven’t gone so well, ask

  • How do they feel about it?
  • What would they like to be different next time?
  • How can you support them?
  • What have they learned?

Just asking about weekends and holidays will give you more information about what is important to people. Equally, notice when someone withdraws his or her effort, gets easily upset or is angry with a colleague and so on. Never assume it will blow over. With others, notice where their energy is. When does their mood change or lift?

Observe behaviour, but don’t jump to conclusions as to why. Use simple questions to feedback what you have noticed. Leave the other person to choose what they tell you. It may be about work or something else; remember that people will choose what they share.

Once you start observing and talking to people in this way, you will spot what is important to people, which gives you more choice about how to respond and get the best from them.

Once you know more about what is important to an individual and why, you will have also more choices about how to help that person meet that need. If the need cannot be met, you can have a more honest and authentic conversation about why. If the individual is also made more aware of what is important to them, this will empower them to make subsequent decisions.

Using values to help teams work better together

Awareness of other people’s values helps us understand what motivates them and causes them to act as they do. This enables us to make choices about how we relate to others, what we expect of them, and how we can help them to be their best. Understanding the different values of individuals in teams can bring the benefits of diversity and help us use the particular interests or passions of others to get things done.

Meredith Belbin has identified nine different roles which are necessary for team success ( Each preferred role is likely to be underpinned by different values. Enabling people to work in line with their values will create happier individuals and teams, improving results and performance.

Team role What the individual brings to the team Potential underlying value
IMPLEMENTERS Getting the task done
Practical solutions
Social orientation
Team spirit
Getting the job finished
PLANTS New ideas
RESOURCE INVESTIGATORS Finding useful people and resources
Problem solving
Focus on objectives
SHAPERS Dynamism
Sense of purpose
SPECIALISTS Technical/functional expertise Professionalism


Team building exercise

Use Belbin’s questionnaire/team roles or another tool, such as Insights or MBTI, with appropriate training or support. Individuals identify their preferred type or style, and then share these in their team, explaining why this is important for them and what they need from others. Work as a group to understand how to get the best from each team member, how to fill in gaps and how to remove obstacles or behaviour which is getting in the way.

Identifying shared values within a team or across teams

People work in teams. While each individual in a team will have their own values, there will be values that are common to each person in that team. Understanding these, and working in a way which harnesses these common values, will increase the commitment and performance of each individual. It will also enhance the performance of the team, especially when aligned to the purpose and objectives of the team/organisation.

It will also help you to identify where different teams have different values which may be in conflict. This may be because of the specific purpose or objectives of that team or because of the nature of the specific individuals in the teams. Making this difference explicit will help team members understand the reasons for the conflict and to remove obstacles where necessary. Teams may also see where they have overlapping values and purpose, and how to use this to mutual advantage.

Exercise 1 – using cards

  1. Either buy or create cards defining different values. You can select these from your chosen values inventory, including the ones in this guide.
  2. Ask team members to select a card which is essential to them for delivering the work of their team. Ask them to talk about the card(s) they have chosen and why they chose it.
  3. Group the ones that are similar and those that are different.
  4. Facilitate discussion in the whole group or smaller groups about the implications for joint teamwork or collaboration.

Exercise 2 – using a questionnaire

This second exercise takes a little more time. It is designed to be used across several teams.

  1. Ask individual team members to select from the table here (or similar) the five values that are most important to them personally. You may want to use a questionnaire/inventory such as the VIA strengths finder ( From these, summarise the ten top values that are shared by the team.
  2. Ask individual team members to select from the same table (or chosen inventory/questionnaire) the five values that are most important to their team or organisation in delivering their work. ). From these, summarise the ten top values that are shared by the team.
  3. Using the lists of shared personal and team/organisation values, agree the top five values for each team. Where appropriate, agree values (three to five) which are shared across teams.
  4. Taking each of the chosen shared values, discuss and identify the individual and team behaviours which support the achievement of that value.
  5. Facilitate discussion in the whole group or smaller groups about the implications for joint teamwork or collaboration and how to encourage the required behaviours.