How Values Shape Us

Chris Chew 

Cognitive Leadership Coach, Trainer, Speaker and Consultant 

From the moment we are born, the values of our family and society shapes our identity and our lives. Values influences our choices, from the type of foods you like eat to your desired career and even the person you choose to marry.

Values are things we personally regard as important, worthy, useful and good in our lives. They are the basis of our personal principles, behaviours and norms. 

As Elvis Presley says, “Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave ’em all over everything you do.”

If values are so important, why don’t understand them better? What is it about values that shapes who we are today and where we are going tomorrow?


About Chris Chew

  • a cognitive leadership coach, speaker, trainer and consultant.
  • experienced learning & organization development practitioner who is a passionate advocate of effective leadership and thinking skills. 
  • more than 20 years of working experience in large multinationals like Royal Dutch Shell and top Singapore institutions such as Singapore Institute of Management. 

     Podcast Episode Highlights

    How do you define values?

    • Values are something intangible that we deem important to us.
    • For example, money gives us freedom. Therefore, freedom is a value. Money, on the other hand is tangible.
    • Value is also something very personal. Everyone has a different set of value.

    Where do our values come from and how do we decide on what to adopt and what not to?

    • Values are instilled or adopted from a very young age. From birth until the age of seven, we absorb a lot of of what we see and hear from our environment.  After that, it stays stable and doesn’t really change much.
    • However, values can change throughout our life. We tend to examine the values we’ve had in the past and decide whether or not it is relevant in our life today.

    What triggers someone to re-evaluate their values?

    Values become apart of our identity. A significant occurrence in one’s life for example a tragedy, or something unexpected will cause an individual to re-examine their values.

    R.Hartman’s Structure of Value

    • R. Hartman was a peer of Abraham Maslow. While Maslow worked on the hierarchy of needs, Hartman worked on the hierarchy of values.
    • The science of values is called The Axiology and it describes (at a high level) what are the highest values.  
      • Intrinsic value (e.g. love)
      • Extrinsic value
      • Systemic value (looking at things 2 ways – e.g. Yes, or no / good or bad)

    Definition of Value Judgement

    • It is our perception of what is of greatest value to us in the moment.
    • Every moment in our daily life, we make judgements.
    • For example, let’s say I value health and head to the gym everyday after work. My boss gives me some extra work and wants it done the same day. This means in order to complete it, I will have to sacrifice my gym time for the day. Here, the value judgement that we make in the moment, is the one that is really operating, and not the one we say is important.

    Making Conscious Value Judgements

    • First, is to understand “What are our value judgements?” The Value Quotient (VQ) Assessment is done in order to get an understanding of their own value judgements. This gives a level 1 awareness or how people value things in the moment.
    • Second, after being aware of our value judgements, we need to cultivate mindfulness.
    • Mindfulness then permits us to notice what’s happening in the moment we are triggered to act according to what our value judgement tells us.

    The Importance of Aligning Our Value Judgements with Our Values.

    Aligning our value judgements with our value, allows us to be the best that we can be and make us feel good about ourselves.

    Can Good Values and Bad Values be categorised?

    • Looking at it objectively, there’s no such thing as a good or bad value. On the other hand, it may have a higher or a lower value.
    • When measured objectively, something good has all the properties needed to fulfil its purpose. There is no moral judgement attached to it.  

      The Connection Between Good Leadership and Good Value

      • Good leadership needs to start with good self-leadership.
      • Good self-leadership needs to start from good self-awareness.
      • Self-awareness comes from our ability to have good understanding about our own value judgements.
      • So how leadership is linked to value and value judgements is that first , you must understand how you value things, and next, cultivate mindful awareness which will lead you to good decision making.
      • This will help you become a much better leader and align the ‘in the moment decisions’ with your big values or the values of the organisation itself.

      How can an organisation change its values?

      • Firstly, the leaders should be aware of the purpose of this change. That is to be aware of the impact of this change. How will this improve things for the organisation and what are they?
      • The second step is to determine the values that are necessary for the organisation.
      • The third step is to personalise it to each leader.
      • Fourth, once it has been personalised, it needs to be spread to the organisation.


      • Firstly, for those who want to learn more about values and value judgement I recommend a book called Answering the Central Question by Harvey Schoof and Peter Demarest.
      • I would recommend reading this a few times, because I’ve learnt something new each time I’ve read it.
      • My second advice would be to do the VQ assessment. To learn more about this you can go to my website. To those who are interested to know more about your own value judgments, I am happy to provide you with a complimentary experience. You get a complementary short report on your top two biases and asset.  

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