I interviewed the CEO of a small research company about the importance of living a set of common values and creating a culture in which people could flourish. Living those values is most important in times of crisis, he told me.
At one point, he recalled, the money ran out and he had to lay people off. The employees who remained became full of fear. Living the values in such a crisis is essential, this CEO explained, because only then can people trust what you say.
Then he made a statement I thought was quite interesting. “Fear to me is misdirected energy,” he said. “It is just negative energy that should be channeled to something positive.”
When the fear is transformed into a positive outlook, he explained, people gain fuel with which to create and build. “They become anabolic [promoting growth],” he said. “They can create something of purpose, something of meaning, something we all can stand behind and proudly say that we all had something to do with it.”
Shared values matter, he had concluded, particularly in hard times. When a negative jolt causes a group to lose its common vision, the energy turns negative and the system begins to break down. The leader, by living the common values in such a difficult time, provides a model that invites everyone to live them. If the entire organization orients to the common good, behaviors change, new insights arise, and a new vision begins to emerge. The organization itself then can become anabolic.