Living your personal values leads you to live an authentic life that you will enjoy and be proud of, but it certainly isn’t always easy. I’ve had to let some great professional opportunities, old friends, and other valuable things go because they didn’t, or no longer, aligned with my values.
Today we’ll all look at three areas to consider as you think about your own personal values and how you can leverage them to be a great leader in your own personal life journey.
Understand what your personal Values are
When you live out your values at home and in your community, you have a strong sense of those qualities, behaviors, and beliefs that are truly important to you. It’s not uncommon to have a lack of clarity in our own values. Perhaps you’ve never really thought about it, or perhaps they are very broad – think “respect, kind, friendly” If you think about corporate Values, the best are short and to the point but they cover a very specific position. (Instead of the general term Justice, they may have Embrace Accountability) That focus helps you create a strong moral compass to latch on to.
If you need assistance in narrowing down those behaviors and traits that are important to you do this exercise over a week. Take time to write down a few things that:
Made you feel good or gave you a sense of satisfaction
Made you sad or gave you pause or regret
What others did that you admired or inspired you
What others did that you would not want to emulate
Made you feel useful, impactful, or valuable
This list should naturally bubble up some themes for you of behaviors, traits, and aspects that you are drawn towards as well as those things that you don’t want to be associated with. Now take those themes a step further and think about the root of those behaviors. You likely just found some of your personal values. Write them out and don’t limit them to just a word or two if you need more. Mine are more statements that a single word that you’ll find in many organizations. Some of mine include:
Put others above yourself
Embrace accountability in what you commit to
Do what’s right for others even when it’s difficult
Leverage your Values in your decisions
Your personal values drive should drive a lot of your decision-making. They help you in deciding what kind of job to take, what company to work for, who you befriend, what kind of content you consume, and more. Your values influence the small decisions throughout the day, (Who you follow online, how you spend your breaks, etc) and the big ones (Your long-term companion, how and where you invest your money, etc) to really everything in between.
When you get to those decisions that don’t seem easy – maybe they are complex, or really large in impact – Take a moment to pause and ask yourself how they align with your Values. Is this a good match? Is this what I want to be associated with?
You can probably recall a circumstance where you felt remorse or regret because you made a choice that was not consistent with your values. Don’t beat yourself up too much about it, it happens to all of us. Instead, learn from it and keep moving forward.
Check in to ensure that those you associate with are still aligned
Similar to our show Can you turn into a bad boss? (EP 348) It’s rare to make up one morning and decide to ditch all of your morals suddenly. What can happen though is a slow drift away from your internal values until a person finds themselves aligned with things that they never thought that they would be. There are many ways that the groups, associations, and people that you know can pull you away from your values without you knowing until it’s too late.
Mob mentality – The act of neglecting a person’s own feelings, instincts, and logic to adopt the behavior and actions around them.
Political groups – Groups that change their agenda as time passes. You may have been aligned at some point, but like mob mentality, become loyal to the group so much so that it overrides your own individual sense of values.
Friends – People are always changing and life events only compound those changes. Are the friends that you associate yourself with still adding value to them or have they become toxic to your well-being?
What are you consuming? – The internet is an echo chamber of its own making with many apps and sites pushing and nudging your content based on what you take an initial interest in. Be aware of the technological tug that may be pulling you in a direction you don’t need to go in, or perhaps excluding the direction that you should be heading towards.
Do a check-in with yourself from time to time to ensure that the categories above and other areas of influence for you are still aligned. While it may be difficult, letting go of those things that draw you away from your values will be a worthwhile effort.
Lean into the Values as you lead yourself, your friends, and your family. You will feel a higher level of satisfaction and value in what you do day in and day out, and you’ll like be building lasting relations while making a difference in others as a result.
I have built a career by tieing my work ethics, leadership priorities, and expectations around company values. Sometimes it was easy as others were aligned, to begin with, sometimes I was a hero as I entered a bad culture that desperately wanted change, and other times I was painted as the villain as I asked others to embrace change and held people accountable to how they did their work.
Living the Values at your organization isn’t always easy, but it certainly is rewarding long term and had always helped me accelerate my own career opportunities along the way.
Learn the Values and their place in the organization
When it comes to your organization’s values, dig in and get an understanding of what they are. The popular way that many companies express their values these are often through single words (empowerment, creativity, trust, service, etc). Although 1 or 2-word values are easier to remember, they really don’t say much or give real clarity to what they mean. Look for supporting documentation that unpacks what each one means to get a true sense of what the organization stands for.
Once you gain that understanding, commit them to memory and look at how the company integrates (or doesn’t) the Values into programming, pay practices, and accountability. In other words, do they truly stand on their Values, or are they something that people look at during their orientation and never revisit? Regardless of which side your company falls in putting its Values into action, understanding and aligning to the Values will help you stand out and accelerate your career.
Make the Values your calling card
Forward-thinking companies will often refer to work that you accomplish in two ways: The What – Your level of performance as it relates to your job description and The How – How you accomplish your goals. It’s always encouraging to see companies that go all-in on the how with some even going as far as to say that they are equally important in evaluating their people and their ability to do more on the team.
The How is all about Living the Values. As you continue to lean into how you carry yourself and your alignment with the company’s overall values, you’ll begin to build a reputation, and a very good one, that then becomes your calling card. People know what you expect when you enter the room and the high standard that you bring with you and those that you influence.
Living the Values accelerates your career
If you put individuals side-by-side that are equally skilled, what would make you choose one over the other? If you’ve got a hiring leader that is worth following, they will always choose the person that is strong in how they get their work done. Here are some ways that Living the Values accelerates your career.
You build stronger working relationships: It doesn’t matter whether you are an introvert or an extravert, a person that Lives the Values in the workplace will always have better relationships than someone that does not. You’ll be known as a partner, colleague, and friend to an ever-growing extended network across the organization. If you’ve company doesn’t emphasize your Values as it should, then people may not make the connection, but they will know that there is something different about you and that they just enjoy being around and working with you. Your life will be easier as you have people with different skills to help support you and your work that relies on others’ involvement will be easier to arrive at positive conclusions.
You’ll likely become a connector for others: It’s been said that a person that is a connector (Someone who makes networking connections for others) advances the quickest in an organization. it’s one thing to develop people in a silo, and quite a different thing to connect people together in order to make their work-life more effective or even to help them advance their own journey.
The strength here is from leveraging those working relationships in a way that brings value to everyone. Your values will lead you to do this in an unselfish way. You’ll give away great talent for the betterment of the organization, it will help keep any leadership ego in check, and you’ll naturally lead in a more servant leadership-like way. (EP 131 Characteristics of Servant Leadership & EP 132 Servant Leadership in Action for more)
You will be a role model for others to follow: I love being a culture champion. It’s so rewarding to see how teams blossom and thrive as they collectively embrace a shared positive culture. As I grew in my journey from an individual contributor to a leader of many, I took pride in being able to be a role model for others and influencing change for the better.
If you are in a tough culture, be a beacon of light for others by how you lead yourself. If you lead others, model the behaviors that you expect of them. When you say to them to Live the Values, they need to see what that looks like and means in the real working world. Many people strive to leave a lasting legacy behind them. It’s a sense of larger purpose in what we do. You can accomplish that in a larger and more meaningful way as you model those values for others to follow.
You’ll be given more influence and responsibility: Those that lead themselves by the company’s values will almost always attract more influence power and additional responsibility. This is a great way for you to have a chance to shine in an authentic way that can help others.
For those Baton Carriers that are in their sweet spot and don’t want to (and shouldn’t) continue advancing, know that more influence and responsibility is a good thing for you as well. Remember that you know your limits (Ep 140 for help here) and share those if you feel like you are being stretched too thin.
Lean into the Values as you lead yourself on your career journey. Your team will thrive, you’ll continue on an upward trajectory of your choosing and you’ll leave a lasting impact behind you.