What makes an individual stand out in the workplace regardless of their level in the hierarchy? What gives an entrepreneur the tenacity to keep going despite setbacks? How does a person move forward confidently in their career despite a lack of experience?
Clearly defined personal values.
Does that surprise you?
Values are the principles that guide our choices and actions. At best, they are intentional, based on thoughtful consideration. At worst, they are accidental or imposed, based on history and circumstance, which upon closer examination does not align with what we believe is truly important.
How do you feel about the prospect of your decisions and behaviors being guided by unintentional, assumed values? What might that say about your current career progress, work relationships or level of influence compared to where you would like it to be?
Every choice we make; every action we commit to sends a message to others about what we value and ultimately who we are as a person. It is also a statement of our leadership skills. We all lead in some capacity whether we lead ourselves or formally lead others. Masterful leaders rely on clearly articulated values to guide them in all they do, especially in times of difficult decisions or dealing with the unknown.
The consequences of unarticulated values are erratic decisions and inconsistent messages. This can lead to a lack of credibility in the eyes of others and a lack of confidence in ourselves. Trust and integrity are major factors in strong relationships in the workplace, in customer loyalty and to our own selves. As we look to progress in our career, manage others successfully or build a business, defining and living our personal values is essential to creating and sustaining robust relationships.
Extraordinary companies know the benefit of identifying corporate values and then making them operational in every aspect of the organization. They understand that people won’t commit 100% to a company that doesn’t make the effort to define what matters most and take action on what it has proclaimed. In the same way, extraordinary people understand that defining and demonstrating clear values are a magnet for opportunity and success on their terms.
If you make the effort to identify, clarify, take action and hold yourself accountable for a set of personal values, you will differentiate yourself from others, create the solid ground needed to navigate difficult times and position yourself as a leader.
When was the last time you checked your values? Here’s how you can get started:
1. Reflect on what is important about how you live and work. Think about how these values were influenced by your experiences. Reflect again on whether these values really do mirror what you believe is a priority today.
2. Choose up to 10 values that you believe are of the highest importance when making a decision or taking action. To pass the “must have” test, ask yourself if you would be willing to fight for, pay for, spend time on and act on these values every day. Narrow the list to 5 based on your responses.
3. Clarify the significance of each value in detail. Define the special meaning and impact it has for you.
Working on values takes some time and usually isn’t accomplished in one sitting but it is worth the effort. The clarity that follows acts as a laser beam, guiding us to act in alignment with what we have determined is important and ultimately creating a way to work and live that is congruent with what we value.
Jo-Aynne von Born, Executive Coaching Partner