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Can you train values and beliefs?


I was having a chat with an HR colleague of mine, whilst we both agreed that you can train skills and knowldge and to a lesser degree influence affect behaviours and values. My HR colleague asserted that you cant train values or beliefs. Any body got anything to add on this? Perhaps its all down to semantics and interpretation.

Thanks one and all

20 Responses

  1. YES!
    If I didn’t believe I could change peoples perception of the world, I couldn’t do my job. Most people who attend training workshops want to learn something. In learning they can change their beliefs about themselves and those around them.

    To me it’s about giving people the tools they need to change. E.g. In a recent presentation skills course a candidate had the firm belief that he could not stand up and present because no one would believe him. In teaching him about the different behaviour styles and giving confidence in presenting skills, he went away believing he could change the world.

    I received an email from him a few weeks later thanking me for giving him life changing information.

  2. Possibly but bot quite
    Thanks Ellen,

    Point taken but in the example you give you have trained his skills (by adding presentations skills)futhermore you mention you ‘taught’ him behaviour styles. This has increased his confidence (ie. you didnt do that he did) and altered his behaviour as a result. You didn’t per se train in a new behaviour. Thats entirely my point. I see the validity of the end result but its the getting there that concerns me. Had you only trained behaviours the example might illustrate my point better. Am I being too picky?

  3. Skills or behaviours
    We are all discussing this here now!We think you can train in techniques and raise awareness of different values and beliefs.

    Like management training which develops through training an awareness of why people require different motivation stimuli, or challenging the belief that all workers are idle and look to avoid work ( sad but true).

    We think the most rewarding part of the job is by the approach of a problem through ‘ a fresh pair of eyes’ and see the relief of someone who has never thought of doing it ‘that way’ because their cognition/perception led them to adopt an approach that does not work for them.

    Maybe not training but it would be a sharing of skills which raises the number of different approaches tried by the individual next time. This builds confidence to try other techniques and thus over time may alter beliefs and value systems.

    I doubt it is down to the tutor who is really just there often as not as a catalyst to get people drawing on their own reserves.

    Training By Design Global Ltd

  4. Of course you can
    If you cannot train someone to accept another belief then you would never get a religious convert. Speak to your local priest im sure he could enlighten you.

  5. posibly . . .
    It might be helpful to think of the track back from behaviours, through thoughts, attitudes and then finally to inner/core values and beliefs – as a perspective. Training the latter somehow sounds implausible – I think you can only encourage trainees to reflect on their own values/beliefs and how these might intitiate thoughts and behaviours. You have to have considerable/sustained impact on people before they change to any great extent. e.g. 9/11 has probably changed many core beliefs – but a one day course . . .? The Trainer would have to work hard to capture the imagination and interest of the trainees first. Difficult one! Behaviours are much less of a problem to modify.

  6. values
    I deliver a training course built up around 12 motivating morals.
    Built into this training is a section about Company Brand Values. When an understanding around having to live the brand and believe in the product has been taken on-board, delegates buy into the idea. This has generated a fantastic level of customer satisfaction. My belief is that you can train values and beliefs as long as you are passionate about them yourself. regards

  7. It depends what you mean by training!
    The values and beliefs that we possess did not appear by magic. We must have learned to react in certain ways and have acquired values from some source in the past for them to exist at all. Therefore if we have learned them we must have had some training along the way. Training is not necessarily a one off event.

    Values and beliefs get more embedded with time and therefore the longer we hold a belief the harder it is to change. That doesn’t mean that change is impossible. It means that the “tutor” has to unpick and re-examine way views are held and be skillful in “appealing” to the person to change or accept other ways of doing and believing.

    This form of development has to be carefully handled as attempting to change deeply held views can be seen as threatening. And the “tutor” has to examine their own motives for wishing to engage in this process and even be willing to adapt themselves in the light of a two way communication process!

  8. the trainer has to listen!!
    since most of the time we are not even aware of the majority of values and beliefs we hold, nor the fact that they then drive our attitudes and behaviours to others, perhaps the training provider could, in order to change beliefs:
    1 have the acuity to listen to the learners language and communication and notice from that their beliefs and the performance outcomes arising from them.
    2 have the ability to facilitate and agree the beliefs with the learners so they are aware of the belief and its outcome to them and others/organisation.
    3 be able to provide options for a change of belief with motivating reasons for that change so the person has a choice of direction to make.

    if we are given a choice we will take it. beliefs are no different.

  9. Depends What You Mean …
    I guess I’d agree with Gill Charlesworth – it depends what you mean by “train”.

    In one sense beliefs and values can change in a moment BUT that “moment” is usually either the last moment in an ongoing process that may have started days, months, even years ago – or a moment of significant crisis (which usually results in the “loss” of a belief or value rather than the creation).

    Contrary to some people’s views, beliefs and values are “not” discrete items, they exist within a massive network of inter-related ideas, presuppositions, beliefs, values, “knowledge” (which may or may not be correct), etc.
    This is an area where there is still a “great deal” to learn, but I think for the time being we can reasonably say that unless you’re willing to use some pretty extreme tactics then the answer to the original question is “no, not to any significant degree”.

    As for religious conversion, just look at the numbers of people who “came forward” at events like the Billy Graham rallies – compared with how few new faces turned up in the churches over the next few Sundays.
    Sudden, emotions-based changes of mind usually have a pretty short half-life, for a couple of very good reasons there isn’t time to cover here.

  10. Knowledge, Skills & Attitude (KSA)
    The question of job content has often been split down into Knowledge, Skills & Attitudes (KSA). Knowledge can clearly be imparted on training courses, some one can learn how to complete a form or adopt a particular system, similarly skills can also be acquired on developmental events; individuals can learn and demonstrate how to undertake particular pieces of behaviour, demonstrating some level of required competence. But the issue of attitude is much more problematic and it really comes down to a much broader and wider question of ‘where’ does attitude originate from?

    In all cases up bringing, education and life’s experiences will have impacted upon the individual’s belief systems and attitudes. It is certainly the case that attitudes in the workplace can be contributed to and supported by training events of that there is no question. Take for instance something as prosaic as ‘Manual Handling Skills.’ An exercise that gets individuals to work out what the impact would be on their life styles and those who are dependant upon them should they suffer a significant back injury and suffer a significant reduction in long term earnings can get them to reflect on how there attitude to lifting and handling might be inappropriate or simply wrong. That individual might leave a training event intent on doing the ‘right thing’ but once back in ’the real world’ colleagues, bosses and culture might however cause them to change this attitude to one of ‘doing things right’, that is to say, behaviours which are compliant with the culture they have returned to. Quickly that ‘attitude’ they acquired on the learning event is subsumed or replaced by another stronger constant prevailing attitude.

    So can we train attitudes on training courses, I would say in some cases we can, can it have any long terms impacts? A myriad of variables effect the answer to this question.

  11. Wow!
    I’m most pleased to have generated an extremely well read posting. Unfortunately when I made the original posting the word editor scrambled a few things and wouldn’t let me change them, hence I have to say I’m not interested in attitudes and had already formed the view that they can merely be influenced to a degree (and perhaps only short term).
    Regarding beliefs and values; I was before and have been even more convinced by Gills answer “it depends on what you mean by training” and sit (at the moment) in that camp.
    As for beliefs and religious conversions; they would seem to be either miraculous (attributable to intangibles or philosophical transformations) and given their sometimes overwhelming speed of change they would seem to bear little relation to training. The more long term conversions (indoctrinations?) may again be subject to extreme influencing skills (cults) and philosophical debate and or physical training (or exhaustion).
    However that’s a side debate, given the contributions thusfar the issue of whether you can train values and beliefs would still seem to be an unexplored area and one that we members have no real definitive answer.

    I’m happy to keep reading and thanks for all the input, its certainly provoked interest.

  12. Values
    I wouldn’t say this issue is unexplored Mark, take a look at school educational systems and the armed forces, value training is researched extensively in these areas. You might find out more if you approach some of these organisations who appear to specialise in this subject. a19980423values.html

    It’s also true that repertory grid can be used to illicit values and beliefs that people hold and I have used this with Barclay Card here in the West Midlands to get this kind of insight, for more information on this, go to:
    A general overview of construct theory but it also has an absolute mine of additional links relating to this topic. If you only want one access web site to this topic this would be the one for me. ~swhite/muskrat.html
    This site details a university project on knowledge management that includes a prototype java based rep grid programme. Whilst still in development this could well be a useful resource in a short while.
    Detail of a host simple DOS based rep grid programmes. KAW/KAW98/delugach/
    An article that looks in depth at rep grids but also process flow diagrams to explore some of the important aspects of this approach.
    A British company that produces software for running rep grids. Interesting and apparently quite expensive.
    A wonderful range of academic papers and reports relating to rep grid and associated disciplines.
    WebGrid is a freely available repertory grid elicitation and analysis service that makes RepGrid available through the Internet. Amazing!

    A good all round coverage of Rep Grid

    In addition to these web sites this article explores this issue in some depth, it is worth looking at and better still it is reproducible with permission.

  13. Semantics it is
    Whilst we may be able to elicvit a person’s values and beliefs on various subjects, this does “not” tell us what a value or belief actually is. And I’m afraid the same limitation applies to “attitude”.

    I might suggest that an attitude is one of the inter-related networks I spoke of earlier, but that would be an educated guess.

    So as long as we don’t have the information needed to set down definitive definitions, it’s all a matter of anecdote and guesswork.

    Still, it’s nice to know we human beans can’t be neatly pigeon-holed, innit!

  14. Semantics is it?
    In some cases it’s interesting, useful or essential to know what a subject or group collectively agree are important values as they perceive them and in these cases their definitions of what values are might be equally useful, even if you don’t concur with their definition/s. On the back of this the key values as the client percieves them might be reflected or built into the design of developmental events if that is what they want or require.

  15. None the wiser
    Thanks for the links Garry, they didn’t prove all that useful; one appeared to be some franchised new-age process, another aimed at teaching (not training) children and the American army would appear to use inculcation. From the examples you give they do not indicate any fundamental research or trainers perspective to the question “Can you train values or beliefs?”
    If anyone else can move the debate forward please help.

  16. No use.
    No, I couldn’t find anything from a trainers perspective, sorry you couldn’t find them useful Mike.

  17. Values & Beliefs
    This is an interesting question.

    But I think it is done a disservice if it is kept in the abstract. It means that the potential for misunderstanding and digression from the essence of the question is increased.

    Would it not be an idea to pick a belief or value and work it through that way.

    A favourite of mine (if it is indeed a belief) would be the management belief that a key part of my job is to make my people better at their jobs.

    This belief, if accepted, would most usefully lead to behaviours related to helping people do the things they do every day, only better.

    I have seen little progress with the penetration of this idea through the managers in our organisations.

    I think the starting point here should be a statement of values and beliefs that we may want to instil or change.

    Then we agree on one and start thinking hard.

    In specific response to the respondent who advised that a visit to the Parish Priest would sort it out, I remember this thing Albert Camus said,

    Thoughts only move our life forward when they are arrived at with one’s own mind, or answer a question which has arisen in one’s own soul; but other people’s thoughts, apprehended through the mind and memory, have no influence on life and can coexist with actions that are contrary to them…’

    There are many people I meet who are apparently committed to a customer care value or a management value, but their behaviour gives them away. In the same way perhaps as beliefs about God or spirituality are often not translated into action or everyday behaviour.

  18. A Manager Believes

    I found your “belief” so interesting I’ve taken the liberty of opening a new discussion thread:

    Can managers MAKE people better at their jobs?

    Thanks for the idea


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