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September 2013


Values and Alignment

"It is easier to exemplify values than teach them."

…Theodore M. Hesburgh (b. 1917) US clergy and university administrator 

Recently, I was in a client's office and as sometimes happens I was waiting as he was late for our appointment due to another meeting. When I have time to sit in another person's space I am always interested in what they choose to put on their walls. When he arrived I asked him about what he had up and he spoke about the company values and then told his story of the lengthy conversations that had been held to arrive at them. In particular, he focused on one value in particular, "Integrity", and his assessment that the hours spent debating just what was meant by "Integrity" had been rather a waste of time as there were so many divergent views and no clear definition seemed to have been reached. It had also been the last time, in his recollection, that the definition of "Integrity" has been discussed. It seemed that in this particular organisation at least, they had been through a values creation exercise and that was pretty much the end of it.

Having witnessed a fair number of values exercises in my time, this seems to be a fairly common practice. It also seems to be based on a common assumption - when we establish our values, we have to get them right and everyone has to agree with them from the start. This assumption, which is based on the idea of value creation as a task, leads to a significant challenge in creating shared values as those involved are creating their definition of a value only from a theoretical perspective. The creation of values when seen as a task also lends itself to the approach that once they are created then the task is finished. Hence the lack of conversation about values in most organisations.

I would like to invite you to think of this in another way. Rather than thinking of values as being specifically defined, think about them as evolving through experience. Let me give you an example to explain what I mean. Let's say that we agree that "Integrity" is one of our values. In our last newsletter we defined "Integrity" as being the state of being whole and undiminished in relation to having a moral character and being true to our self. Now that is a fairly high level definition, which I would think most people could accept. However, as with all things, the devil is in the detail. If we are to take "Integrity" from a general concept into a shared understanding of what it means in a community of people then we have to refine just what "Integrity" means in the context of shared experiences.

This occurs through conversations when someone feels that there is a lack of integrity. This is a primary responsibility for a community or organisational leader who would be well served by having an eye to refining and bringing to life the group's values. Over time these conversations help shape the shared meaning of the group's values, and also allow people who join the community to understand what it means to be an integrated member of that community.

The key in all of this is to not see values as rigid but rather as evolving to encompass the experiences of those involved.

We invite you to explore more in the articles section of our web site.

Play Create Elevate

Some thoughts from Jacqui Chaplin

"At books, or work, or healthy play, Let all my years be passed; That I may give for every day; A good account at last."

… Isaac Watts (1674-1748) English minister

I had the privilege of speaking to a group of 50 or so people on R U OK? Day this year. I presented the Black Dog Institute’s one hour community presentation “Breaking Down Depression and Building Resilience”.

It was wonderful to be able to share my mood disorder experiences, some heart-wrenching and others heart-warming.  I believe it is so important that people hear about ‘head and heart health’ from someone with a lived experience of the reality and daily impact depression and bipolar can have on people’s lives. It allows those who might otherwise be silent about their challenges to take steps to get the support and guidance essential for great head and heart health. And for those who might have family, friends or colleagues living with a mood disorder it offers an opportunity to hear about the rollercoaster of experiences a person with a mood disorder might be living with in a more objective way opening a space for greater compassion.

After the presentation I spoke with a large number of people who expressed their appreciation of the content and they spoke of the difference and significance hearing first hand of my lived experience and how I and those around me have fared on my journey over the last two decades. One member of the audience who suspects her sister may have bipolar disorder emailed me afterwards saying that:

“I haven’t spoken with her (sister) for quite some time – your talk has prompted me to call her and check she’s ok with a little more sensitivity and compassion – so thank you so much for that!"

Is it time to provide your colleagues an opportunity to hear from a person with lived experience about head and heart health?

This kind of action and shift in perspective is what speaking openly and comfortably about head and heart health means for me. For those of you who might not know how to start the conversation with someone who is of concern to you, here are some tips:

  • privately let them know you’ve noticed some differences in them and that you are concerned for them;
  • allow them the space to respond in their own time;
  • allow plenty of time to listen to them when they are ready;
  • allow them to set the tempo of conversations and actions;
  • let them know that you get what is happening for them is real, even if you don’t understand it yourself;
  • offer support and assistance based on what they want and need;
  • respect that each person has a right to choose how to take care of themselves; and
  • remember the old adage, ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink’. No matter what you think should be done – a person has to be ready to seek help for themselves (the exception: when they have a suicide plan or are talking about one).

A great resource is The Black Dog Institute’s website.

Please check out the website, www.PlayCreateElevate.com.au, and let Jacqui know what you think.

More on PCE next month!

The Monthly Diversion


Barbara Walters, of 20/20, did a story on gender roles in Kabul, Afghanistan several years before the Afghan conflict.

She noted that women customarily walked five paces behind their husbands.

She recently returned to Kabul and observed that women still walk behind their husbands. Despite the overthrow of the oppressive Taliban regime, the women now seem happy to maintain the old custom.

Ms Walters approached one of the Afghani women and asked, 'Why do you now seem happy with an old custom that you once tried so desperately to change?'

The woman looked Ms Walters straight in the eyes, and without hesitation said, "Land mines."

Moral of the story is (no matter what language you speak or where you go):


And one more thing...

I came across the piece below via a friend and sent it to my 17 year old daughter to read as something it is valuable to remember in life. Her response, "... thats really smart actually!" And I agree.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’

The professor then produced two beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things - your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favourite passions - and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else - the small stuff."

"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life."

"If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you."

"Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness."

"Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn."

"Take care of the golf balls first - the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled and said, "I’m glad you asked. The beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers with a friend.


"Reason and emotion are not antagonists. What seems like a struggle between two opposing ideas or values, one of which, automatic and unconscious, manifests itself in the form of a feeling."

… Nathaniel Branden (b. 1930) US psychologist


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