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Clarifying Personal Values

Sep 16th, 2019 • Andrea Butcher

Sometimes, it’s important to take a step back. Thinking deeply about where you are in your career (and life in general) is tough – and it can even seem daunting if you haven’t thought much about it – but identifying your personal values is a much more useful exercise than you may think. Although everyone’s values and goals are different, knowing which aspects of your life and career are the most important to you will help you to be a better leader to those around you.

In our Being [At Work] podcast episode with Trey Willis, Chief Technology Officer at CTSI-Global, Trey opened up about his honest, career-changing epiphany regarding his personal values. There was a moment where, at a leadership workshop, Trey learned about the “Values Exercise” for the first time. You may have heard of this exercise before, but for those who haven’t:

  • The process starts by shuffling through a deck of “values cards.” Attendees of the Leadership Challenge® Workshop are given a deck of 48 cards, and each card has a word on it that represents a given value to live by (such as “integrity”, “wisdom”, “humor”, “growth”, “family”, “competition”, “freedom”, and more).
  • Then, the goal is to separate that deck of cards into piles: those values that are important to you, and those that aren’t. Easy enough, right?
  • However, Step 3 is to take those values that are important, and trim down that pile to the 5 most important cards.

Unsurprisingly, it can be difficult to choose between tons of great words that you wish to live by. At first, Trey wanted to make a distinction in order to make the process a bit easier. “Are these supposed to be our personal or professional goals?”

And then came the answer that changed his mindset: “Is there a difference? And if so, should there be a difference?”

For many of us, it can be easy to fall into a habit of separating your work-self from your home-self. After all, work life can bring many different challenges than home life can, between managing clients, deadlines, employees, and deliverables. Home life certainly has its challenges (especially if your family is as big as your team at the office!), but you may act fairly differently in home situations than in work ones.

So when tackling your personal values card sort process, look at those values in a professional light as well. Do they hold up to scrutiny as goals that you can shape your entire life around? If there’s conflict between a personal and a professional goal, tackling that conflict head-on is a crucial way to see which of those two opposing values deserves to win out – and in turn, to help you live a work/home life that is true to yourself.

Validating Your Values Through Feedback

Getting feedback from employees, family, friends, and peers is an activity that may not be comfortable for some leaders, but it’s a critical step to take if you want to be sure that your values are true. Self-reflection is something that we do on a pretty regular basis, even without realizing it. You can generally tell if something that you’re doing is right or wrong, and you can definitely tell if a decision that you made was wise or not (especially with the benefit of hindsight). However, when was the last time that you asked your best friend if you were embodying “integrity” as a value?

Discovering how to ask for feedback – especially from those with whom you’re closest – can be a scary proposition. There can be a number of reasons for this, but the biggest is that you care what their opinion of you is. One good way to go about this exchange may look something like this:

“Feedback is really going to be beneficial for my personal and professional growth. Would you mind telling me what you perceive to be the values that I embody? Being completely honest – do you think that ____ is a good adjective to describe me? Why/why not?”

These answers may reaffirm what you already believe to be true about your values.

They may also hurt, but inform you about aspects of your values that you need to work on in order to become a better leader.

Trusting Your Experience

Why is it important to focus on your personal values, instead of just getting the job done? To paraphrase Trey Willis’ insight on this question, you can’t lead effectively if your goals aren’t clear to those who are listening to you.

As the leader of your company, project, household, or recreational basketball team, it’s your job to lead by example. If you are clear in your personal values as a leader, then it will be so much easier to embody those goals as you work, and guarantee that what you are doing is what you want others to emulate. This is also a much faster way of training someone than telling them what to do over and over.

If you are reading this article, it’s likely that you have a good amount of professional experience to fall back on – and that your varied experiences have taught you a thing or two about your industry and its inner workings. You probably know better than anyone else which values are useful in your work life, and which ones are useful in your personal life.

So, why not try to find the best ones that fit into both categories, and embody those values at all times? A written values list to keep in a prominent place can help you to remain aware of your responsibilities, and it can also help you to change certain habits that aren’t helping you to be a better leader, coworker, family member, and friend.

The team at HRD Advisory Group helps businesses to craft the ultimate employee experience, which centers on finding the right people for the job, equipping them to do the job right, and providing resources to their employer so that their careers can develop and blossom. Connect with us today to see how we can help your business!