This Activity Can Help Employees Find Their Shared Values

Leaders can use a simple activity to remind employees that, no matter their background, they have something important in common.

group of professional people
Cecilie Skjold Wackerhausen/

A good friend of mine once said to me that "values cross cultures, generations, genders and races." If you reach out to your people and ask what values matter to them above all else, you'll likely discover a lot of crossover. Even if they don't all say the same things, their values will likely work well together. For instance, kindness, compassion and service are values that overlap considerably, as are profitability, monetization and winning.

However, when you mix groups of people who have different core values, conflicts are going to happen. For example, the people who value emotional strength may clash with those who value qualities that support professional growth and ROI. This can lead to opposing approaches to tasks and team goals.

Because such values are such a deep part of people's day-to-day lives, such conflicts may seem irresolvable. But if several members of your team—or people across multiple teams—frequently lock horns because of these differences, there's an exercise that might help them find common ground.

Step 1

Assemble all relevant parties. Have them form groups of five to six people and make sure they don't just gravitate toward colleagues who already share their values and points of view. Encourage the groups to be as diverse as possible, such as a mix of races, generations, genders and cultures. You may even want to have the activity facilitator assign groups to ensure this diversity occurs.

Step 2

Each person in the group will have five minutes to do the following:

• Share a moment when they didn't know how or if they'd make it through but someone greatly helped them through it. They should describe what the person did to help them, how the help affected them and why they think it made them a more resilient person.

• Construct and share a Thank You message to that person, which they will record on their phones. It should include what the team member shared about the experience, specifically what they appreciated most about the help they received and how it's made a long-lasting impact on their life.

While there may be those team members who are skeptical about this activity, encourage them to stay open-minded and avoid negativity. Remind them that even if they don't initially see value in sharing these personal moments, it's still an opportunity to know more about their colleagues. This builds better teams, which leads to stronger dynamics and productivity. Besides, the hope is that all people will learn something about what drives each other and that no matter their motivators, everyone has struggled and overcome challenges.

Step 3

Once everyone in the group has spoken, they will make a pact to share those videos with the person they talked about. If the person is deceased, they can try to send it to the next of kin or share it on social media. Each group will then commit to sharing with each other when and if they receive a response from the person they thanked.

Step 4

Reassemble as a whole group and have everyone recap what they shared. Give each person about three minutes.

What does this activity accomplish?

This exercise is powerful because it contains the trifecta of vulnerability (sharing a very difficult moment), courage (the fact that you went through it) and gratitude (to the person who helped you). When people demonstrate these qualities, we stop seeing them as someone who comes from a different background and more like people we can connect with on a deeper level. Because of that, team members might begin to reassess their biases and begin to prioritize building relationships with each other.

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