Facing a decision? Let values be your guide.
Values are a big part of your unique identity and leadership, both in terms of your style and your impact. Guideposts that shape your decisions and actions, values play a major role in defining who you are and what you do. But because values are somewhat intangible in nature (e.g., achievement, motivation, respect, etc.), it can sometimes be easy to overlook how you can use them. Using our values to help us make choices is like using a moral compass to navigate life—both personally and professionally. As a leader, if you use it you’re more likely to get where you want to go, maintain your own sense of self respect as well as the respect of all those you lead.
Here’s how to get greater clarity around values:
1. Identify your values.
These can change over time, depending on your experiences in your career and life. You’ve got a general sense of what’s important to you, so make a master list of those values and try to narrow it down to five core values. We recommend checking in on your values on a yearly basis. You may be surprised to find that a new belief is now trumping an old one. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to recognize this new value and its relevance in regard to your leadership role, decision-making, and the strategies you’re using to steer your organization.
2. Assess how your current behaviors align with your values today.
Make a list of some of your key responsibilities—hiring, communication, performance management, etc. Now, referring to your values, rate yourself on how well your actions and decisions are supporting your values. When have you been off—or what gaps do you see? When have you been spot-on? If you’re struggling to answer these questions, consider getting some 360-degree (anonymous) feedback from your team members, those who may be noticing some serious misalignment between what your values are and how you’re living those out in the workplace.
3. Use your values to trouble-shoot.
When you’re facing a tough decision, write out your options, then examine which options best support your values. Great leaders regularly align their values to such choices and rely on them for direction and confirmation. Over time, the practice of consistently aligning values to decision-making, behaviors and actions builds leadership credibility and respect. If you understand and commit yourself to your values, you will increase your chances of achieving your most important goals in life and leave you feeling happier, or simply more satisfied, too.
What are some warning signs that your values aren’t in alignment with your activities?