If I were to ask you what your three core values are – would be able you tell me?
Chances are you might instinctively say things like honesty, fairness, respect…. which are some of the universal values or principles that many people would say are important to them.
And it’s likely that there will also be other values that are unique to you – the things that really matter to you which are the invisible driving force in your life.
So what is a value? Simply put personal values are the things that are important to us – they underpin our behaviours, actions and decisions and point to what motivates and fulfil us. Values are essentially subjective – it is you alone who accords significance to your values.
Our core values are what help us navigate through life – when we face difficult decisions it is our values which help give us direction, acting as our inner compass pointing the way ahead. Knowing and living our values is the bedrock of our sense of self – the foundation on which everything else is built.
As a Leadership & Team coach I’ve done a lot of work on values over the years and consider that I have a good understanding about what makes me tick. Recently I did the Brene Brown “Dare to Lead” programme (facilitated by Kirsty Maynor) where I was asked to pick just two values that are vital to me. Picking only two really challenged and focussed me – which two values define me and help me navigate in the dark?
As I considered different values and pondered the question, I was also invited to give examples of the behaviour and actions which demonstrate these values – and, rather uncomfortably, the times my behaviour might not fit these values.
What I’ve found really useful about this exercise of really tuning in to a couple of key values is that it’s really given me a sense of deeper connectedness to them. When I recently faced a challenging conversation with a client I was able to check in with myself and see if the way I planned to deal with the situation was really in line with my core values – and once I’d decided it was I felt confident in my approach to the situation and able to deal with whatever the reaction might be. This experience has brought home to me afresh the great power of really knowing our values.
In life and work there is a lot of information, a lot of “expert” knowledge, lots of advice around what we should do, how we should be. When you are in new or unfamiliar territory, such as being in a new leadership role, it’s easy to get buffeted by all the different opinions and sucked into the rhetoric on how a “great leader” should act in this situation or that.
From my perspective “great leadership” starts with self-awareness and self-mastery, with looking inwards at who you are and who you stand for. Having a strong sense of what matters to you (your values) is invaluable in providing a feeling of being grounded – like tree roots spreading deep into the earth – and as well as providing stability and nourishment these roots support resilience and the ability to bounce back when the going gets tough.
In our professional lives we spend a lot of time building our knowledge to become subject experts, developing leadership skills and so forth and yet few of us take the time to be experts in ourselves, in our personal drives and motivations.
So maybe it’s time to invest some time in exploring the values and beliefs that are most important to you and who you are at your best?
If you are reading this and thinking that you would like to find your inner compass then I’d be happy to share a free exercise with you to help you tune in – just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
All the Best
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