Let's Talk about Speaking Up Speaker Recap: Mary Gentile

September 20 , 2022  |  By Aliza Wrigley

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On Sept. 14, the Business Integrity Leadership Initiative kicked off its Let’s Talk speaker series with Mary Gentile, Ph.D., author of Giving Voice to Values, a pioneering business curriculum for values-driven leadership that has been featured in Financial Times, Harvard Business Review, Stanford Social Innovation Review and McKinsey Quarterly, and presented and/or piloted in over 1,365 business schools and organizations globally. 

Using her extensive research, Gentile developed a model known as giving voice to values (GVV), which she shared with the audience. GVV is about how individuals can speak up effectively when they experience something that seems wrong or unethical. 

The approach is based on seven pillars – values, choice, normalization, purpose, self-knowledge and alignment, voice, and reasons and rationalizations. GVV is practical and action oriented. Gentile shared that it moves the conversation about ethical issues beyond passive awareness and analysis to active engagement. The focus of GVV is on how to address the ethical issue effectively if one was in that situation. Gentile walked the audience through various approaches they could use to leverage their own personal strengths and effectively speak up when they encounter values conflicts in their everyday lives. 

Gentile shared with the audience that they should see values conflicts as a normal part of everyday life and not an extraordinary event. She encouraged viewers to establish a value system and then choose each day to act in line with that value system. Gentile emphasized the importance of not acting with immediate emotion but instead “pre-scripting” or practicing what you might say so that you are more prepared for the inevitable moments of values conflict when they come your way. She talked about the reasons or rationalizations one might hear and gave advice on how to deal with the most common ones.

Gentile noted that the GVV approach – empowering people to speak up – is applicable to both your personal and professional life and throughout all stages of life. She challenged the audience to remember one thing when it comes to ethics and values in our workplaces, classrooms and lives: “Once you know what you believe the right thing to do is, how could you get it done effectively?”

Gentile is a senior advisor at the Aspen Institute Business & Society Program and a former professor at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, Babson College and Harvard Business School. Her book, Giving Voice to Values, is the Let’s Talk about Speaking Up book of the semester.