By Dan Cooper on January 23, 2020

How to Develop Family Values and Unintended Consequences

“Please don’t “Business” us.”

Yes, business is a verb in my house. I tend to bring work ideas and concepts and want to implement them at home. Thankfully, my wife stops me from trying to run our house like a company.

Imagine the carnage of the performance review with the 8-year-old. Not good.

That’s why I was so surprised when I brought up the idea of family values, and she was in! Since I had a green light, I jumped on it quickly.

Why Do Family Values
Our family is mature enough that we have values and norms that are felt but not written.  Our kids are the right age as a teen, tween, and youngster. I was also curious about what they think about our family.

What is the Cooper Way? What are we rooted in? What’s our core? What concepts are eternal, infinite, lifelong, and always true about us? What did they think?

The Process

I went to the google and asked it all sorts of information on how to create family values and put together a loose process that fit our family based upon what I read.

1.Buy-In

I brought up the idea to the kids at dinner one night and they were all in. I, of course, sold it a bit promising a fancy dinner out and that we’d hang them in our kitchen. All constituents were on board.

2. Process

Research time. What was I going to ask everyone so that we’d learn the depths of our hearts about our family? I ended up perusing “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families” by Stephen Covey and used 14 questions from the book (I put a link to questions at the end of the blog)

3. Brainstorming

I then printed out the questions and had everyone answer them as homework. I helped our 2nd grader. We then went out for a “fancy” white tablecloth dinner and, after the main meal, shared all of our answers. I took notes as the meeting scribe.

My admiration for my family grew that night.

The answers were so thoughtful and sincere. It was special.

A few conversations stood out, especially the questions below. Powerful.

What is the purpose of our family?

What kind of feeling do we want to have in our home?

What families inspire us, and why do we admire them?

4. Writing

It was interesting to see the themes in all the feedback which became the formation of our values. When we all see and feel the same way, that is real.

I created the first draft and presented them at dinner one night. We had ten to fifteen statements that we could include. All weighed in. We ended up with seven final themes. My wife and I then edited them down.

Then we got stuck.

Something was missing. These were our family, but our core was missing. It felt like the values needed to be rooted in something more profound than just our feelings and words. Our why, our core, our root is in our faith, so it was right to weave that into all of our values. So, we decided to pair scripture with each one. When you see our values, you’ll understand why.

5. Create

What did we do before Etsy when there was a fancy art project to be done?

I went to Etsy and found a designer to do something simple that would last. The order made and two weeks later it arrived.

6. Present

For the unveiling, we made a fancy dinner at home and hung it up on the wall and talked about them overall. Then, over the next couple of weeks, whenever we were all around the table together, we’d take one value, read the scripture, and talk about how it works in our house.

7. Use them

It is up to my wife and me to keep our values top of mind. We could easily forget them and have them hanging on the wall. What we’re finding is that in times of distress, complications, challenges, anger, joy, etc … we use our values to sharpen, challenge, and inspire our children. Since we have a common language and have talked about them, we can quickly get to the root of a matter and move forward.

For example, my daughter doesn’t like to be the center of attention. She’s an introvert and it’s tough for her to be in that position.

She takes piano and they have recitals twice a year where you get up by yourself in front of everyone and place a piece. It’s always an argument to get to her to go and not succumb to the constant sales pitch on why she should skip it.

With our values, we pointed at “Do Hard Things,” and it was a short conversation. She frowned, nodded, and just said, “OK.” For her, it is very hard to get up on stage. In our house, we all will have to do hard things. She can do hard things.

8. Unintended consequences

There were some unintended consequences of our values. For one, I didn’t know that I would be held to the same standard as the kids. Imagine my surprise when I was called out for not living up to the Apologize and Forgive value. Humbling … and awesome.

The second was the conversations I started to hear when we had other kids over to our house. “What are those?” “What does Do Hard Things mean?”

My kids were telling their friends about the values and they were proud of them. I was flabbergasted.

What about your company?

Many companies have bland, trite, ignored, lame, and insignificant values. No one knows, cares, discusses, or uses them as guides to decision making.

Doing this with my kids really opened my eyes to how strong values can be when:

You, the leader, are curious and honor everyone’s answers.

Your values are rooted in something deeper than just words. What’s your company rooted in? Your why?

When you frequently talk about them together.

When your team talks about them to others.

What are your values?

Resources:
The 14 Questions from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective FamiliesClick Here

Published by Dan Cooper January 23, 2020