When Values Are Vague

{Note: Team transformation stories from Polaris Institute members are published anonymously to allow the members to share openly and honestly. This story is from “Mike E.”)


We’ve had workshops for our firm before, but I have to say, the session we did with the Polaris Institute was one of the most impactful things we’ve ever done.

The premise was simple enough: exploring our company values. Like many companies we have a set of principles we’ve built the firm on and everyone here knows what they are. So, I didn’t expect to have any big revelations come out of the Polaris workshop. Still, I love the Polaris approach to opening up new possibilities, so I thought it would be a good session for our team.

What is “caring?”


One of our company values is caring, as in, “We care for our customers.” Pretty simple. Except it wasn’t. After Bill took us through the basic brain science of how we all see our own realities based on our individual life experiences, we broke out into small groups. One of the things we explored was what the term “caring” means for each person. Then, we came back together and the results were stunning. A single word like “caring” had so many meanings to different people. For some, it was about considering someone else’s feelings–as in, caring what they think and asking for their opinion. For others, it was about doing more than is asked or more than is even expected. It was surprising how many different ideas and emotions were attached to that one word. There was a moment where the whole room fell silent, however, when one of our more quiet and reserved team members said, “caring is a burden.”

The burden


You could have heard a pin drop. Everyone could tell that there was a lot of painful life experience behind that simple sentence. With Bill’s help facilitating, we went on to have a deep, meaningful discussion as a group about this word we’d been throwing around casually as one of our core values. We were able to explore all of the different perspectives we’d uncovered and flesh out what we wanted the word “caring” to mean within the context of the company. The team bonded in a way that I didn’t expect at all when the workshop began. It was very special.

As we were wrapping up the session, the quiet team member who had shared that caring felt like a burden to her shared another comment that perfectly summed up how we all felt. “Caring is having sessions like this where we make a deeper connection as a group. Thank you for putting this on for us, Mike.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.


Feel like your team is not in sync on your company’s values? Contact us to inquire about a transformative workshop today.

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