WHAT IS THE UTILITY OF VALUES?
Thank you for your interest in personal values discovery.
Download my values discovery workbook here: Values Workbook DOWNLOAD
I coach a small group of driven professionals interested in improving strategy, outcomes and staff engagement. I also run values discovery workshops for executive teams and help roll out values across larger organizations.
Socrates, the first of the great western philosophers and the founder of western philosophy asked, “What kind of life is worth living?” This is the question that values discovery attempts to answer.
Values discovery also informs: What kind of business is worth operating? What kind of political party is worth fighting for? What organization is worth devoting myself to?
The unexamined life is not worth living. The unexamined business is not worth operating. Without examination, deliberate choices are impossible. Possibilities are limited.
Are you living a good life? Possibly, but you don’t know. Could there be something better out there?
Values come from our core beliefs and should inform the choices we make in life.
The result? More happiness. Who doesn’t want that?
Science has shown than people who live their values are more confident, hopeful, at ease, open to new ideas, operate in a better mood, lose weight, stop smoking, start exercising and more. There is even a study that shows people who have articulated affirmed and acted upon their values have fewer inflammation markers in their blood!
Business also shows that leaders with clear values have more influence and create more results. Kouzes and Posner, in their book, The Leadership Challenge, found that leaders who were seen as clear about their values scored 40 percent higher than those who did not.
Why VALUES are valuable to the individual?
- Would you rather be rich and miserable or poor and happy? I’d rather be rich and happy, but if this game requires me to choose between the first two, the answer is obvious. Happiness matters more. Many of us actually value money much less than we initially think. Yes, lack of money can cause real stress in our lives, but many of us don’t recognize that when we pursue money in violation of our values we create even more stress and unhappiness. What’s more, if we spend years working on causes that violate our values we wake up, look into the mirror and wonder what we’ve become.
- Life is short. We have a short time on this planet. Why waste time living inauthentically? Why waste time living with other people’s values? Live your own life.
- We easily get distracted from what matters. By defining our personal values and using them to guide our decisions, visions and goals, we can stay focused. Our life will be more meaningful and rewarding.
Why VALUES are valuable to the organization?
- Many companies have value statements, but often these written values can be vague or wordy and are often ignored. The real values of a firm are shown by who gets rewarded or let go. Values inform the principles (rules) we create and adhere to and inform the specific behaviours and skills we care about most.
- When staff are living their values in alignment with their organizational values, they are happier, more engaged and more productive. HR costs related to turnover, complaints and aggressive salary demands go down.
- Team members who understand the utility of values in their own life can then use values effectively in a team and organizational environment. Values-driven team members make better decisions, waste less and make the company more successful.
- Values help us make decisions. Organizations are complex and require filters to keep strategy aligned. Values help with:
- Quarterly meetings
- Client acquisition
- Managing vendors
- Firing clients and vendors
VALUES are not facts
Values should just feel right. They are an intellectual response to an emotional problem. When values are not being lived, we feel unsettled, not quite at our best, or feel like “there is more than this!”. Listen to these warning signs and take the right steps to live more of your values in your professional and personal lives.
VALUES are not rules
Values are subconscious opinions informed by deeply held beliefs. Rules are set in place consciously (laws, regulations) or unconsiously (norms, habits). When we understant the knowledge, rules and values influencing a decision, we make better choices.
VALUES are not Cultural Principles
Cultural principles are the rules of behaviour for human-to-human interaction. Values are the lens through which we make decisions.
Netflix and Patty McCord did a great job of establishing cultural principles. Ray Dalio and Bridgewater have done the same. Having a great culture, means that you use values and you have principles, yet the two concepts are used differently.
Values inform principles. Cultural principles are a practical way we see values in action for person-to-person behaviours and all-alone behaviours that impact others.
Values, when established properly, act as an invisible manager that sits on the shoulder of each employee. Values empower each member of the organization to boldly say YES or NO. When used properly, goals and boundaries are set based on values. Values help with constrained resources. When we need to prioritize, make tough choices, decide what stays or what goes?
The best decisions take advantage of an elucidated and integrated values framework.
Signs that VALUES are missing from your life
- Compulsive Behaviours
- Lack of internal growth/progress
- Poor relationships
- Depression, anxiety, fatigue
You don’t know what values are
Values are not aspirational. Values are not accidental. Values are not flippant. Values are not the bare minimum. Values are how you believe you should live and work. They are states of being that inform the actions you take and the principles you create. Values are the foundation of a unique, unreplicable culture that delivers results and attracts top talent.
Compulsive behaviours, excessive social media use, depression, anxiety, faltering relationships and addictions are all signs that you are not living your values.
Values root you. They are your most natural motivators and act as a compass to drive you forward. They are strongly influenced by our birth families, culture, communities, and emotionally engaging life experiences.
Every action you take within your organization should be influenced by your core values. Your personal values should align with your organization.
The values can be growth oriented or security oriented
As we mature, we discover that growth oriented values are more powerful and longer lasting. When we are able to live in alignment with growth, we can control our happiness and pursuit of purpose more effectively.
Your values can be security oriented
All of us have values that are security oriented. This is natural, and can be a powerful driving force in our lives. The danger of security oriented values, is that they can often be the source of selfishness, and cause you to exert undue control on others, which can destroy team cultures and communities.
Your challenge is to identify and accept your security oriented values, own them and identify how they help you and how they can get in the way of living your mission and purpose.
Identify your SHADOW VALUES for more clarity on decisions
Shadow values are desires that, when channeled improperly, destroy interpersonal relationships, degrade integrity and erode trust. You can not deny your shadow values, or they will creep in and sabatogue your drives for security, hedonism, stimulation, achievement, power, etc.
Shadow values will fool you into thinking that your intrinsic motivators are less powerful. Taboo, shame and repression amplify desire. When your shadow values are taboo, shamefull or repressed? They weasel their way into your behaviours and undermine your influence and flow.
Own your shadow values. Make peace with them. Explore them. Observe them. See how your shadow values help you achieve.
Your shadow values are your inner monster, and when controlled, can be a powerful driving force in your career and life. Its better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.
Values are not your character
Your character is your aspirational ideal self. It’s the higher you who performs admirably in times of crisis. Character is heroic. Whereas values exist because of our beliefs, and are much slower to change; character can be trained. It is like a muscle. When others look at you they should see your character in action.
Character is developed:
- Through regular journaling and reflection practice
- Alongside a seasoned coach, professional or mentor
- With an effective meditation practice
- In an environment that rewards the positive traits you desire (and calls foul when you violate them)
Values are good cousins to your strengths
Strengths are traits that you excel at expressing. When you live your strengths and focus on building your career and service in alignment with your strengths, you live closer to your values.
Values -> Purpose -> Strategy -> Goals -> Tactics -> Actions -> Results -> Beliefs -> Values
Don’t confuse values for goals or strategies. Yet, your values should inform all the goals and strategies you set. Your values underpin the purpose you identify. You should be able to live your values consistently in pursuit of your purpose.
Once you achieve results and have time to process your successes and failures, you will then reinforce core beliefs or create new ones. Your core beliefs drive your values, and the cycle starts all over again.
When values guide your goals, vision, decisions, you are more likely to be happier, more influential, more powerful, more consistent and in relationships that are more consistent.
Put VALUES to work within your organization
- Does your leadership team have your values and their associated value statements committed to memory? Before your team can live the values of your organization, they need to know them.
- Have the individuals in your company gone through the process of uncovering their personal values? And aligning their personal values with the organization? Then exploring how their time outside of work can help express the values that the organization cannot fulfill?
Most companies have value statements, but few organizational leaders can recite them. And while more than 90% of organizations have defined their corporate values, most do not use this culture-building tool to its full capacity. Leaders ignore values development at their own peril: disengaged employees, burnout and high turnover are signs that your organization is not living its values.
An unexamined business is not worth operating. Values should be clearly defined, simplified, understood, applied and reinforced.
Why don’t people/organizations live their values?
- We do not know them
- We do not use our values to take actions, set goals or create a strategy
- We have destructive desires that compete with our values
- We do not take the time to integrate our values into our business, family and personal lives
How to uncover your personal values
How do you believe you should live and work? The process of personal values discovery is relatively simple:
- Reflect upon your life and identify the best times of your life and the worst times. Values will be present in the best times and violated in the worst times.
- Then, look at heroes and villains that exist in your life, business, politics or the movies. Find out which expressed values are aligned with you or violate your core beliefs.
- Next, find a list of values and group together all the values that have meaning to you. Make between three and five groups of values.
- Label your groups with an over-arching value. Perhaps you can add an adjective to the value to make the word more resonant.
- Acknowledge the states of being that need to be present for you to be happy.
- Set CLEAR goals to make sure that you are living your values every day.
Leaders will be seen if they violate the organization’s stated values
The best way to reinforce values in an organization is to have explicit support from the CEO and leadership team in both words and actions. If an organization’s core value is “efficiency”, yet the executive team is wasting time and money on luxury company cars, long business trips and expensive dinners, the values of an organization crumble. Values must be demonstrated more loudly than they are communicated.
Leaders’ values expression and character expression are amplified in a way that most are oblivious. Make sure you are living a career and public life that are in alignment with your authentic values.
A common mistake with values discovery
We confuse “ends values” with “means values”. For example, many people might say that family is a core value, or that financial security is a core value, when in fact they are both a means to an end.
Values are states of being that we want to exist within. Financial security can inspire peace of mind, freedom, independence or generosity. Family can inspire lovingness, security, collaboration or honesty.
Principles are based on values, they are not values
Principles are rules that support the values of your organization, or personal life. Values are a character trait or a state of being. Principles are rules.
Your values underpin the principles you create for your business and life. Principles are unbreakable rules that will lay the foundation of your strategy, that in turn, informs the goals you set and the actions you take.
If my principle is “I put family first”, then my motivating value can be a loving connection, empowering freedom, or honest openness.
What do I do if I work with someone who does not share my values?
First, remember that it is OK to not share values with other people. This is why we have different political parties and factions within these political parties. This is why religions have different sects and denominations. People with similar values congregate together so that they can live the lives they desire and be happy. Each of us has a unique personal truth that we must embody.
People have different values
Knowing that someone does not share your values can actually be freeing. You can then release your personal expectations of how they need to behave. If you can identify the values that they are prioritizing, then you can label the values conflict and act accordingly.
People do not have to believe the same things you do. You may come into contact with someone whose highest value is anarchy. Yes, it can be frustrating if you’re debating conspiracy theories with a flat-earther, but do you really need to waste your precious time on this debate?
Let them live their values, and suffer their consequences. You can live your values and be happy if you set boundaries around people who do not share your beliefs.
You can set boundaries so that trust and reciprocity will not be violated. For example, one client I coach is passionate about removing gender and racial barriers from her industry. Recently, she was looking to partner with a group of well-funded women who identified a business opportunity in this arena, but they were more concerned about financial stability, while my client was concerned with impact. Their values were palatably misaligned.
The solution? Working with these businesswomen required my client to use more cunning and caution. When Values are in alignment, she often works for future payoffs, low wages and sometimes even for free. Because these businesswomen value profits over impact, my client requires them to pay the full fee, industry-standard wages to contract her services.
Why do so many people steer clear of religion and politics in conversation? Because the conversation rapidly declines from debating ideas into debating core beliefs. Values often take a long time to change. It is very difficult to influence and change someone’s core beliefs. Once established, beliefs can take years to change–if they ever do. When two people debate their beliefs, it creates conflict and requires an immense amount of energy and emotional labour.
Is someone with different values than you going to be your soulmate? Or best friend? No. If their values are different enough will they even be your friend?
So, what if they are your colleague? Or a family member?
We must respect each individual’s human rights, but we can then categorize this person as someone who deserves less attention and energy in our lives. Sometimes, it can be useful to look at someone with different values than you as a tool.
Decide how ‘valuable’ this relationship is. When we do not share values with our colleagues, it is difficult -and sometimes impossible- to build trust.
How transparent should I be with my VALUES?
When other people know your personal core values, they will judge you and they can use this knowledge to manipulate you. They will work to change your mind and frame arguments along the lines of your values.
Others can take knowledge of your values and keep opportunities away. If someone says they have conservative values, what do you think? What if they have Liberal values? Family values? Polyamorous values?
Values are emotional and an art form. One person’s interpretation of a value may be slightly different and even be misinterpreted. This misconception can cause more trouble than you may want.
Yet, when leaders share their values with their team, they perceive themselves as being 25% more effective. Teams perceive values-driven leaders as being 40% more effective than leaders without well-defined values.
To keep relationships strong, it is better to emphasize and focus upon shared values.
Do you know any rituals that reinforce organizational values?
Organizations should promote a different value each month or quarter. Send out internal emails, videos or hold events that reinforce your company culture.
Here is another exercise that I have used successfully while coaching executive teams.
- Write down your organization’s values and value statements
- Rank yourself from 1-10 on how you have lived these values in the past quarter
- Go around the table and share:
- The value you had the most challenge living in the past quarter
- An example of how the person to your left has lived and expressed one of the core values
- The value you think will be most important for the team in the next quarter
One of my clients who also belongs to Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) uses to rate his leadership team and staff.
- Create a grid with names on the left bar and values on the top bar
- Write down each key person on your team or in your organization.
- Do they get each value?
- Do they want to live each value?
- Do they have the capacity to embody each value?
- If they get it, want it and have the capacity for each value, then that team member stays on the boat.
- If they violate too many values, then the team member must be coached up or coached out of the organization.