HRINZ Conference 2005 Working Through Values Working Through Values  

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Day Three – Friday 16 September


C4 Developing Values

Shaun McCarthy    

Confronting Reality – The Knowing Doing Gap

Shaun McCarthy, Human Synergistics

Often the biggest block to building values within organisations are the very people who are striving to build the values – those in leadership positions.

Whilst typically, senior executives have a clear image of what behaviours they want to promote in those they lead, there is a distinct gap between this desire and everyday reality. Whilst senior executives know what culture they want, they fail to produce this through their own leadership styles and strategies.

This 'culture disconnect' reflects the 'knowing–doing gap'. There is a difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it. There is a big difference between knowing what culture you want and actually behaving in a way that genuinely sets the agenda.

Research involving nearly a thousand organisations operating in the New Zealand and Australian marketplace will be presented, showing just how senior leaders impact on the behaviour of their direct reports, how they in turn set the behavioural agenda for the organisation and how this then translates into the organisations' cultures.

This workshop will focus on what senior leaders need to do to set the stage for being a successful values based organisation. Culture is the key to this and leadership is the key to unlocking a culture that turns what is all too often rhetoric into reality.

Of all the drivers that impact on culture, the research is pretty clear – the single strongest driver of culture within any organisation is the quality of leadership throughout the organisation.

Developing values throughout the organisation requires leadership that is consistent with the stated value set. Whilst this is a statement of the obvious, few leaders recognise this. Whilst they intellectually know what is required of them, they generally fail to turn this into actual behaviour that supports the desired values.

Caught up in the everyday realities of organisational management and pressures to produce short–term performance, leaders forget that everything they do is being watched and analysed by people throughout the organisation as a guide to what is expected of them. These become the behavioural norms – how we are expected to approach tasks and interact with each other in order to get things done.

The result – people throughout the organisation see that the values are simply rhetoric and not real.

So how can leaders close this gap between knowing and doing? By confronting their own reality!

"Everyone thinks of changing the world but no one thinks of changing themselves" Leo Tolstoy.

The answer lies in the very way the leaders themselves lead. Values are designed to transform, to transcend the experience of everyone who deals with the organisation. They are designed to guide behaviour, they are designed to operationalise the vision of who, how and what we want to be.

If we were to put every organisations’ values set together, we would find three general themes emerge:

  • Excellence. Statements designed to reflect the belief that peoples' efforts can and do make a difference (innovation, improvement, performance, responsibility, service, etc)
  • People. Statements designed to reflect the belief that results are achieved through people (empowerment, participation, involvement respect, personal development etc)
  • Ethics. Statements designed to reflect the organisations desire to act in a truly ethical manner (social responsibility, environmental responsibility, accountability, diversity etc)

So, developing these values throughout the organisation will only happen successfully when those in leadership positions behave in ways that make these real.

The problem is most leaders are still caught up in a controlling mindset that actively inhibits the actualisation of these values. Many must therefore challenge the very essence of what they see as effective leadership. Most leaders – particularly those at the very top of the organisation must learn and see the difference between leadership that guides and leadership that restricts:

  • Guiding Leadership VS Restrictive Leadership
  • Creating a sense of direction VS Talking about what you don't want
  • Active role modelling VS Putting limits on how to behave
  • Active mentoring VS Learning through 'sink of swim'
  • Lateral thinking VS Vertical thinking
  • Managing by excellence VS Managing by exception
  • Giving positive feedback VS Giving negative feedback
  • Rewarding success VS Punishing mistakes
  • Reciprocal influence VS Unilateral influence
  • Empowering people VS Constraining people

Shaun McCarthy is Chairman of Human Synergistics in New Zealand and Australia. He is a Director of Human Synergistics International, Michigan USA and Center for Applied Research, Illinois USA.

Shaun launched Human Synergistics into New Zealand in 1979 and has expanded the organisation into a dynamic and successful trans–Tasman business with offices in New Zealand (Wellington and Auckland) and Australia (Sydney and Melbourne).

Based in Wellington, Shaun has been in consulting for 30 years. He is considered to be an international leader in the Organisational Development field of culture and leadership and has worked in many countries from American to European to Asian and of course Australasian. His first love though is the local environment.

Whilst primarily now responsible for managing the business, he still consults to a number of organisations – commercial, governmental and not–for–profit. His personal specialty is working with top executive groups to set the stage for major organisational transformation efforts. Over the years he has worked with groups from boardroom to factory floor and has been invited to speak at a number of in–company and industry conferences.

C4 Session Indicator    more info


Developing Values


All levels

Grunt Factor:

Hard business




Presentation 60%; Q&A 10%; group work 20%; reporting 10%



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