Are You At Risk?

3 Ways To Prevent Value Drift


By: Kate Patulski

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If you want to lead at a high level and build a thriving organization, retaining talent is one of the most effective ways to be successful. In order to retain talent, you must understand value drift and its impact on your organization. 

You’ve probably had this happen at one time or another in your life. You are in a significant relationship, like parent/child, spouse/spouse, employee/employer, and you begin to take the relationship for granted. You fail to remember the impact the relationship has had on your development and where you are in life. Then, one day, when the relationship isn’t an arm’s reach away, you begin to understand and appreciate the value of it.  This is value drift.

I never understood this concept until I was introduced to it in 2007 while working to receive my Master Coaching designation in Neuroscience and Behavioral Performance. Even in a Google search, you may not find what I am about to propose.

I remember complaining to people about my mother and her inability to listen to what I was saying. I told my husband, “I don’t actually think my mother cares about what is going on with me or where my life is headed.” At the time, I did not see my mother as an instrumental part of my existence or a valuable player on my team. Then, one day, on a damp September morning, I was awoken by a phone call from my brother-in-law. My mother, who was hospitalized for an ulcer, was not going to make it. She was bleeding out and there was nothing we could do. We booked the first flight home. I never saw my mother again. In an instant, I became acutely aware of her presence and the sounding board she had been for the majority of my life.  She was the person that always knew how to swap something out in a recipe or give me worldly advice on how to communicate with my grown children. I had lost value in the relationship, which definitely impacted how I was with her, and I didn’t notice it until the relationship was no longer available.

This may be a dramatic example, and you don’t have to experience this type of loss to experience value drift. Value drift happens in the slightest of ways.

My husband is a staple in my life. He is always available. If I am being completely honest, I used to undervalue his contribution to my daily life. At one point, I experienced value drift in my relationship with him. I have told friends in the past that he “doesn’t really contribute to our day-to-day existence,” and that “I make everything run and work.” It wasn’t until he wasn’t around that I realized that was not the case. In 2011, Ron was interviewing with a large organization in Austin, TX. We were living in New York, running our company, and raising our youngest child. He accepted a position as the Executive Vice President for MAPS Coaching, a subsidiary of Keller Williams International (KWRI). He quickly moved to Austin while our 20-year old daughter (Hailey) and I wrapped up life in NY. It wasn’t until Ron wasn’t in the daily household that I started to notice all of the little things he did . . . Taking the dog out regardless of the weather, trouble-shooting technical difficulties in the house, making sure the trash was out on collection day, and ensuring that our daughter was driving a safe car.

Value drift is the perceived loss of value someone feels in a relationship regarding one’s growth, well-being, and/or development.

Value drift is experienced in business when talented individuals grow accustomed to the environment/influence/leadership and drift from seeing the value that their leader and/or organization has played in their success. Oftentimes they move on, feeling that they can do better on their own or with someone else.

As coaches with a nearly 25-year career, we have lost clients and we’ve seen our clients lose talent as a direct result of value drift. We have had members leave our organization because they had grown accustomed to our influence and no longer saw value in how it influenced their success and continued to keep them on a growth path. Typically, within a year that former client will reach back out and acknowledge that they “took for granted” the coach/coachee relationship. Unfortunately, there is a cost to both a business owner and their talent when value drift occurs.

When you recognize that value drift is a phenomenon of long-term relationships, you also begin to understand that selling against (demonstrating and providing consciousness of value) value drift enhances the experience of all parties involved, not to mention it saves a lot of time, energy, and loss of income.

3 Ways to Sell Against Relational Value Drift

In order to sell against relational value drift, it is important that you understand altruism and its value to the people you influence. Altruism means acting in the best interest of others rather than yourself. It’s been said that “people act in their own self-interest.” Although we do often act selfishly, as human beings we seem to be wired to cooperate with others. Studies have shown when we look for mates, we tend to look for kindness more than any other quality. When you demonstrate empathy for others, it tends to encourage altruism. Altruism leads us to do what is best for others and makes us feel good in the process.

Each person within your organization has an altruistic value system. This means they look at how their work influences the lives of others. The more you, as a leader, understand what work means and provides to the people that work for you, the more likely you are to further encourage altruism. When people feel more altruistic in your presence, they tend to value the relationship at a deeper level which causes them to experience relational value.

Relational value is the extent to which one feels and acknowledges the value of another. Maslow called it the need to belong. Some believe that relational value is the root of self-esteem. The evolutionary perspective claims that, as social creatures, our ability to influence the reactions of others is highly advantageous whereas the inability to influence is catastrophic. As a result, feeling valued by “important others” became part of relational value.

Here are three ways to sell against value drift, positioning both you and the people within your organization to perform at a higher level:

  1. Get Clear: Become crystal clear on the altruistic value of the people that you share life with or who exist within your organization. Use the questions below to help uncover each person’s altruistic value.
    • What are the things that you care most deeply about?
    • What are your soapbox issues?
    • What do you take the most pride in?
    • What does your work provide to others?
    • What influence do you want to have? Why?
  2. Create the Environment: Create a culture and environment that allows the individual to achieve their altruistic value. Ask yourself the following questions about your environment.
    • How does your organization support what’s important to the people that live within it?
    • How do you position your talent to perform at the highest level (this could be through leverage, systems, process, training, exposure, etc.… thus allowing them to experience their altruistic value)?
    • In what way is your team/organization aware of the benefits of being within the organization and having the ability to experience more as a result?
    • How do people become better because of the relationship they hold with you? (This is not your idea of better but their idea of better.)
  3. Communicate: Communicate your awareness of their unique contribution to your organization. The more aware people are of the difference they make, the more they feel like their work matters and the more likely they are to continue to grow within your organization.
    • How do people know they matter to the success of your organization?
    • Do you speak in their language or your language? Do you know their language?
    • If we were to scale everyone in your organization (1-10), for their feelings of unique contribution and recognition within the organization, what would they say? Do you know what makes them a 10?

The need for relational value is a fundamental need. When you create an environment that speaks to this need, value drift is dramatically reduced and performance is exponentially increased.


Kate Patulski, CMC