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A few years ago I returned to where I used to live; to Hulme in Manchester, land of youth, of music and opportunity. I hadn’t been there for over 20 years and got completely lost. So much development has happened there that in the absence of the landmark buildings, the places and spaces I recognised, I was lost in this city where I had lived and grown for over a decade. For me values are like big land marks; they also guide us and help to keeping us on our right path, our way of living, our way of being. Personally and in organisations, without a sense of our values, what do we have to guide us? Values help us identify what is important by guiding us in our relationships and businesses, in our principles and directly impacting on our choices, goals and actions. They are our touch stone.

I look back and see that the values I hold now are the values I have carried throughout most of my life. My justice value in particular has sometimes got me into trouble along the way (I wouldn’t change it!) but it has served me well and held me to account in times where not to act would have been the wrong thing to do.

Values tend to remain pretty consistent throughout our lives and are often inherited. I was once in a training session with a person on either side of me during an exercise looking at values; in the middle an agnostic woman, a Muslim woman to my left, a Hindu man to my right. A discussion began about inherited values. The Hindu man became excited when he realised ‘You mean I don’t have to accept the values I inherited from my family; I can have my own?’ This thought was so exciting and powerful for each of us. There is a strong link between values, individual and shared identity of community, faith, family, context and organisation. What happens if you do not share the values of those around you? What if yours are different? How do you handle that?

Closing thoughts
And so I wonder what are your values? What is guiding you? What difference does it make when your values are present and you are living by them? What difference does it make when they are not present? What happens when your values are challenged or even violated? Take time. Think about some of your ‘landmark’ values which guide you on your path.

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The image used was designed by Ben Kelly for the cover of the album Sextet by A Certain Ratio, the band which led me away from Newcastle to Manchester.