Organization & Leadership Consulting

Why are Values Important to Name and Rank?

Business man climbs the building blocks of core values

Imagine yourself stranded in a remote wilderness setting. You decide where: desert, forest, island, ocean. You decide the season: spring, summer, fall, winter. You have limited resources: food, clothing, beverages, other supplies. Your communication device(s) have 26% battery life. You’ve learned that rescue personnel will not get to you for another 72 hours.

Now, due to an unexpected change in circumstances, you just lost 80% of the resources you listed above. Decisions must be made. Without changing anything else in your imaginary scenario, what is the most important thing to do first? What is the second most important thing to do? The third, etc.? A little bit of naming and ranking of importance becomes essential.

“Values” are those ideas, concepts, behaviors, ways of thinking and doing, etc. that are most important to us.

Unlike principles (a future blog topic), they can change as we gain insight and perspective. However, one or more of them will determine a course of action in any given moment. If, in the moment, we can’t decide what course of action to take, it might be because our values are not clearly ranked in our own mind or “heart” (which is a more holistic means of referring collectively to one’s mind, emotions, and will).

The ‘value’ of ranking your values is in the power-to-decide the process brings to both static and dynamic scenarios. Once you know and commit to what is most important from your list of all that is important, you are able to more rationally and clearly determine a course of action (or even non-action) that will best pursue a desired outcome. At their most powerful, values become “core” to identity and literally non-negotiable. Non-negotiable values prompt automatic responses even stronger than second-nature. Those automatic responses significantly influence what your leadership, management, and people-skill reputation is based upon.

Simple example: It is important to neighborhood parents that their kids have an abundance of outdoor fun together. They even plan for it to happen (let’s suspend the current pandemic realities for this illustration). However, as soon as the local emergency warning signals go off (tornado, fire, ambulance siren, etc.) the parents make fun secondary to safety, even if it’s fun to watch the danger approach (as many in my home state of Minnesota do when severe weather literally storms in).


This same practice of ranking values according to importance applies to your organization, its teams, its governing body, how it treats its varied stakeholders, etc. For good or bad, without intentionality it happens automatically (usually based on unconscious assumptions). The question you need to answer is, “Have we consciously ranked our values in priority order so each person knows how to use them as lenses through which to view a scenario and arrive at a decision consistent with what we have promised to those involved?” Yes? No? When do we start?

TurningWest – Your Guide to Healthy, Human Work Systems, is clear on its value system and has helped scores of other organizations score big with their stakeholders through powerfully effective values clarification processes. The outcomes of such a process will help your organization’s decisions actually take root and grow. Contact TurningWest today to learn more.


Leave a Reply