Anchors for growth, well-being, and general state of happiness
By Simon L. Dolan
On the 25 of May, I was asked to deliver a webinar to the Culinary Institute of Barcelona (CIB) on “values, Leadership and Future scenarios. The webinar was delivered in Spanish, and if you are interested you can watch the entire presentation on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbiXx3clMv8
So, for this occasion, I have reflected on the multiple links that exist between values, leadership, the future of work and the culinary sector. Here is a summary of my short reflection on this theme. In the Video (albeit Spanish) I delve with much more details. I simply wish to share this reflection.
I always said that my triaxial model of values was inspired from the metaphor of a very rich culinary buffet. There you find many tasty and a great variety of choices, all seems very seductive and you really want to eat them all , but you know that this is simply impossible; you need to make a choice and select the kind of food that you can digest, satisfy your preference and taste. Similarly, in the universe of values there are thousands of important values around us; which one will we select as our core values? Which one are relatively the most important to us? Which are the one we wish to select in order to govern our daily conduct. After all, like in the choice we make in a rich buffet, we cannot live and cannot adopt infinite number of values. I would say, in both cases the reflection is “food for thought”. But, how do we make the choices? What is the formula? Hereafter I will try to explain by also drawing more metaphors and analogies.
Remember that we are living in an age of plenitude. There are lots of good and healthy food out there (but if eaten unselected …………. there is also lots of crap food); there are many values surrounding us, actually there are hundreds or thousands of them and we constantly struggle to select the one that are relatively most important to us and help us to serve as a compass in a VUCA and uncertain world that we are experiencing. We also need to ensure that once selected, the values will be congruence with our daily behavior. We are faced with a dizzying choice in our supermarket of food ingredients and a huge universe of values. I would say that in the western world both are almost infinite.
So, what is that we need to do? The key lies in developing a personal algorithm that is aligned with our definition of success, that can also render us happy and content. We first and foremost need to decide what is good to us and perhaps to our surrounding. For instance, if we define the final value of success in life as something like longevity and health, we need to ensure that our algorithm for eating habits include the kind of food that is balanced, that has a configuration of healthy ingredients, that is eaten in a reasonable quantity, and obviously also satisfy our taste buds. This is not an easy configuration to follow (easier to talk rather deliver). The environment is very seductive; the aisles of a normal supermarket are filled with food ingredients from across the globe , and it keeps on changing in different seasons. The same happens to the universe of values. There are so much values corresponding to diverse belief systems that it is difficult to separate them or place them in a hierarchy. Nonetheless, if we manage to refine the set of core values that are relatively the most important to us, they will guide our conduct and have an impact on the choice of food we eat and enjoy.
So, how do we develop the value configuration. In my writings, I suggested a simple formula that is a metaphor of the food buffet. Given that we cannot eat everything in any given buffet, we make choices. Given that we cannot live every day with hundreds or thousands of important values, we need to make choices and reduce them to something more manageable. My proposition was to develop a triaxial axes of values and see how these fit into our desired behavior and definition of success. We cannot succeed if we do not have a minimum of Economic-Pragmatic values; we will not succeed if we do not include some social-ethical values, and we will not succeed if we will not include some emotional or even spiritual values. Nobody claim that these needs to be symmetrical, the model that I have proposed over the years is an asymmetric triaxial model, where a minimum of each axis needs to be present for otherwise, my research shows, the situation is not sustainable. In the food consumption behavior, we can identify similar pattern. We need to ensure a configuration that combines some basic proteins, some carbohydrates, and other essential ingredients that will protect us; but we also need to include elements of esthetics and ensure that the food satisfies our taste buds. And remember, for every person the configuration will be slightly different albeit some commonalities.
Once again, how do we navigate this? What guides our decision to pick one product over another, one type of food/value and forgo some foods/values altogether? When it comes to the big issues, we are concerned about our system of believes and values. Shall we respect animal welfare, climate change, or health and nutrition. I think that the golden rule that govern our food choices should be a clear formula (algorithm) or an anchor – a value anchor. But it is not easy to develop it, especially when we feel dominated by our senses in the short term (smell, taste, look) ; these can be counterproductive to the reach of our final value : ” living long time at reasonable state of physical and mental health and embed it with sporadic moments of happiness”.
In my writing on coaching and leading by Values (Dolan 2011, 2020 in English and 2012, 2018 in Spanish), I have developed some methodology, and tools that may help the development of this desired formula and will facilitate decisions and corresponding congruent behavior. Values come first and the choice of food comes next. A simple game card called “The value of Values” (see: https://tiendacoachingporvalores.com/ ) will help us undertake and understand the process. Although it is simple to follow, this game was based on tens of years of research. There is also ample psychological support that shows the strong links between values and food: People who have greater ‘universalism’ values (meaning they are particularly concerned with the welfare of people and the environment) tend to:
1. Make more sustainable food choices – e.g. be vegetarian, or eat less meat; choose organic, fair-trade and free-range products
2. Show greater appreciation for health and quality, over convenience/microwave meals
3. Consider the country of origin; boycott untrusted retailers; avoid excess packaging, and consider whether packaging can be recycled
Because we exercise our values in many ways, we can think of them almost like muscles: the more we use them, the stronger they get. So, when it comes to food, our strongest values will tend to influence our choices – not just at the checkout, but also for the initiatives and groups working towards the bigger issues we personally care about. As a result, it is worth reflecting on our values: what do we think is important? Do we express them in our food choices? And, again, are there structural features of the food industry that get in the way of us expressing these values?
Values, then, guide many of our attitudes and actions when it comes to life at home, at work and applies to the food we select to eat. By reflecting on how values motivate us, and everyone else, we’ve got a greater chance of understanding what the solutions are. We can make personal food choices, as well as backing bigger policies or projects that will have a positive impact both on people and the environment.
So, to conclude this short reflection, I would say that an excellent chef that wishes to impress his/her clients’ needs to combine a double triaxial consideration. On one hand, need to consider the cost – effectiveness of the product (the EconomicPragmatic axis in our triaxial model of values) , the process for which the dishes are prepared ; that means care, attention, hygiene , and considering the cultural expectations of the client (the Social-Ethical axis in our triaxial model) , and the passion , creativity and innovation for which the food/dishes were prepared (The emotional axis in the triaxial model). Moreover, in order to really be an effective change agent in the food sector or in any other sector, the leader (the chef in the case of the food industry) needs to be grounded with three essential ingredients:
1) to have a clear concept, vision, idea of what to do
2) to have a clear methodology – procedure of how to translate the vision into action, and
3) to have tools that will enable execution.
These are obvious in the case of chefs and cooks, but not so easy to grasp in the days to day activity of leaders in other sectors and contexts. For this reason, we have developed the certification program where we help people narrow down and select core values, place them in order of priorities and ensure con¡gruency in their daily behavior. Interesting enough, these procedures are reflected in my books destined to leaders or coaches, and it is the subtitle of the books that really make the message clear:
1) in “Managing by Values” (Dolan, Garcia and Richley) the sub title reads: A corporate guide to Living, being alive and making a living in the 21 st century
2) and in “Coaching by values” (Dolan 2011) the subtitle reads: A guide to succeed in the life of business and the business of life .