Long ago, I remember hearing that I should identify the “core values” of my company and somehow use them for success. I didn’t see how it was relevant, at the time. Now, 25 years later, I can’t imagine living my life without them, for my companies, myself and my marriage. Why?
They Remind Me How To Behave When I Least Want To
One of the things I’ve learned is that effective core values are at times challenging. It’s easy to behave when things are going well. It’s when things get stressful, emotional, or painful that the core value reminds me how I’m choosing to behave. For instance, all of my companies and my own personal values have a value around communication – whether it’s articulated as honest or courageous – the essence is that I’m agreeing to dive in and have the conversations I need to have (or even more challenging sometimes, invite the conversation I need to hear) even when my natural conflict avoidance wants to kick in. That guide post helps me do the thing I want to do – communicate! -- with a minimum of angst.
They Make Hard Decisions Easier
In a company setting, after a lot of work and reinforcement, our values are a shared agreement about how we’re going to behave. So when times, situations, or people are challenging, we can all look at the core values together and use them as a roadmap for how to continue. For instance, one of my companies is currently experiencing rapid growth, which can often feel stressful. (I’ve heard it described as “building the rocket on the way up.”) We’re constantly adding to and changing our accountability chart – but we need to do that in way that’s consistent with our ‘take care of others’ value. Our values are our first filter for what we’re going to do. Since we’ve all agreed on the values, making decisions that support them help keep us aligned.
Much Less Drama
I asked my senior leadership team recently to think of a time where there was a situation involving negative drama that DIDN’T involve a values conflict. They couldn’t. As they thought through the past scenarios, all of the high-drama times were times when someone was behaving in a way that wasn’t consistent with our values. In fact, it seemed that the values conflict was the source of the drama. Seen through that lens, handling these high drama situations became much simpler. “As you know, one of our values is <x>, and I’m struggling to see how you’re applying that in this situation” is a much less confrontational conversation starter that reveals either an opportunity for someone to grow, or a possible bad fit.
There are many ways that knowing your core values can help you create a better, more authentic, more peaceful life. Check out our new upcoming course, Discovering Your Values, running in September. Stay tuned for more blog posts on this key topic!