Values are one of those things that can sometimes sound a bit ‘pink and fluffy’; often we associate them with a few nice words or phrases on a mission statement or corporate website. But what are Values and why are they so important?
I’ve learned that knowing and understanding our own core values – at work, at home, in relationships, is crucial. Values reflect what is important to us. They underpin how we live our life, how we view the world, what we tolerate in ourselves, the type of organisations we want to work for, our motivations and how we lead and like to be led. And when people are unhappy, unfulfilled or angry at work I find more and more that it is because their own values are not in alignment with the organisational values (explicit or not), or their own leader’s values or they feel ‘out of sync’ with the rest of their team.
It just ‘feels’ wrong.
You can hire the most technically able and competent people in the world but if the cultural ‘fit’ is wrong, they’ll underperform or they won’t hang around.
A value is something you need – indeed MUST have – in order to feel fulfilled. Now, most of us can draw up a list of things that are important to us but core values go deeper. If you know what triggers a very strong emotion in you then it is highly likely that a core value has been touched. Values and beliefs drive the decisions we make.
Of course, values can be limiting as well as positive – and in order to let go of our limiting values (blame and revenge for example) we need to understand and eliminate our fear-based beliefs. To understand this more deeply I strongly recommend you take a look at the Barrett Seven Levels of Consciousness Model
But where do our core values come from?
They come from many places. They are shaped by our upbringing; what we learned was acceptable or not when we were growing up. They might change as we experience new things in the world or changing life conditions. Some of our values are cultural or historical. Some might change over time. Some will stay with us and we will not change them, come what may, EVER.
So the first thing is to be clear on your own values. Who are you and what do you stand for? How do you live those values on a daily basis? You can download a list of values here. Click here.
Here’s an exercise to get you started (it’s in three parts)
Freefall writing – You write without censoring yourself; letting your thoughts and feelings tumble onto the page. (For some reason this works better if you write by hand….)Go somewhere quiet where you will be undisturbed for 20 minutes or so. On a blank sheet of paper just write whatever comes to mind starting with:
A time when I was totally fulfilled, at my best was when…….
And the feelings associated with that time are……….
Then look at the values list (attached) Click here and highlight the words which were totally present for you at that time.
Fill out the missing words in these two sentences:
If I don’t have xxxxxx in my life, I am unhappy, unfulfilled and miserable.
When I have xxxx I feel totally at one with myself, at peace with the world and personally fulfilled.
Look at that values list again (attached) and highlight any more key words.
I find that most people have 10-15 words highlighted by this time. Can you narrow it down to your top five? Or three?
Write down your top five (or three) values.
What beliefs do you have behind each value?
What behaviour do you demonstrate that relates to each value and belief?
For example if you have ‘honesty’ as a value, your belief might be that ‘honesty is the best policy.’ How do you demonstrate honesty in your daily life? How would your team know that this is a strong value for you? Or your friends or family?
Once you’ve done this for yourself it’s a great exercise to share with your own teams. And you can build on the value words to make them ‘come alive’. So let’s imagine everybody in the team had ‘integrity’ as a value…… what specifically does that mean to your team? How do you make that value come alive? How do you demonstrably live that value? How would others know that you were living that value?
I’ve only touched the surface here and if you want to read more on values, my favourite resources are here: www.valuescentre.com
Till next time,