Acting Congruently in a System Your Values Don’t Align With

It is hard to do.

Acting congruently has been a long time interest of mine. The early influencers were Virginia Satir, and Gerald Weinberg (who studied with Virginia). Later as I learned Non Violent Communication and Clean Language, I broadened the number of tools and skills I could carry with me in my work with organizations. There are quite a few angles to acting congruently, but in this instance I am referring to your values and your actions being aligned.

Miki Kashtan, a Non-Violent Communication expert, posted her evolving thoughts on ‘Why Patriarchy is Not About Men’ and what we can do about. I posted several years ago my experience report of an all day workshop with Miki and she is not only an amazing facilitator, but an amazing human and writer.

Miki says we need to stop paying exclusive attention to the individual actions (of others) and start to measure the degree to which we take action to change or affect systems we are part of. We need to act congruently with our espoused and actual values. To change up the patriarchal system we live in we need to push ourselves out of our own comfort zones.  Her writing is about societal systemic issues and more importantly about our personal agency for change, when our values do not align. But it can apply just as well to organizational contexts.

Do you have the courage and ability to say so (or ‘No’) even when you feel uncomfortable:

“No, I won’t participate”
“I need X”
“In this context, this does/doesn’t make sense to me’

There is no shame in keeping in the umbrella of financial stability, and there’s always a way to be more congruent in your life and work choices. It might involve enrolling others, asking for help and getting coaching. Recoiling, rather than speaking up isn’t one of them.  Following is an example of a principle I stand by when looking for my next consulting work that emerged from having learned about congruence over the years. 

I have left the big-agile organizational transformation coaching business because I do not believe in imposed coaching.  It isn’t that I refuse to coach in a larger organization, but I won’t have a central agile department as well as other placement agencies or prime contractors sending to me to client teams that do not want to be coached.  When I can be a participant in a Setup process prior to engagement, I will be able to choose whether I am a good fit for a potential customer or team.  The Setup I describe is geared for agile coaching and includes links to ‘Systemic Modeling’ Clean Setup / Clean Scoping from which it is adapted.

I didn’t always have this principle and had gotten into incongruent situations several times. Since I stepped out of my comfort zone to align my values to my work life, I can live comfortably with myself, even though I cannot ‘see’ the effect of that on broader systems of coercion. 

And always looking to stretch my learning, I very possibly will gain skills later that will allow a team that is not performing to be coached congruently even when they did not invite the coaching.  I’ve got a Clean Language colleague Jacqueline who does that with an individual who is not performing. It could be well adapted to a team.  

Update 2020: Written in 2017, I have largely held to this principle. I did take employment internally with one company for about 14 months. There was no middleman and I was sought out for the position, rather than being hired into it.

Explore posts in the same categories: Courage, Experience Report, Leadership, Personal Growth

2 Comments on “Acting Congruently in a System Your Values Don’t Align With”

  1. Sharon Small Says:

    Fantastic Andrea. I was at a large organizational event in June and these kinds of questions came up. It was good to see it happening and people beginning to think about their participation in work cultures that neither support them or the others they work with. Can’t always push the blame up (or down .. or sideways).

    Good luck on your new adventure. All that you say about Miki holds true for you!


  2. Andrea Chiou Says:

    Dearest Sharon – thank you so much for your support! Means a lot – and thank you for that last bit too – though I have a long ways to go to reach her level of commitment. I did just enquire about joining a two day NVC/Focussing seminar in Maryland this weekend – I think that will do me a lot of good if I was in time for the limited openings…


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