Why Personal Core Values Are Vital to the Success of Your Journey and Business
Go Beyond Crafting a Mission Statement and Actually Live Out Your Beliefs
While training to become a Gazelles International Certified Coach back in 2012, I came across this rather compelling story:
With his second child on the way, an executive attended a parenting class to sharpen his skills. After a few sessions, he came in one evening and shared with his classmates a profound lesson he’d learned because of the course. Great parenting is very similar to great leadership in that they both require only 3 simple actions:
1) Have a handful of rules (not too many)
2) Share and repeat them often (regularly)
3) Live by them yourself (model them)
The simplicity of this perspective illustrates the importance and worth of Core Values. As I teach them, they are defined as the rules your company lives by – the ones it actually practices – rather than a mere mission statement. I realize it seems passé for companies to talk about their “core values,” but most companies do not take the time to clearly define them. Nevertheless, those values do exist, and companies operate according to those principles each day, regardless if they’re defined or not.
What are Core Values?
Let’s start with what core values are not: Core values are not who you want to be as an organization. Instead, they are who you are today – right in this moment!
Too many companies create what they think are “core values,” but they merely assemble a list of traits that reflect who they think they want to be in the future or how they want people to see them. At best, they’re vaguely aspirational ideas with no ability for follow-through. At worst, core values become corporate propaganda that deliver false hope.
Unfortunately, too many companies live, act, and conduct business quite differently from the values they proclaim. This is rank hypocrisy – not only will these actions turn off team members and clients, but they will also create a chasm of credibility between leadership and team members.
Let me be clear – you should set core values for yourself and your company. The clearer and more deliberate you are with them, the better it will be for your personal development and the culture of your company. Core values also make the path from good to great much simpler and more straightforward, as first defining and then living out those values do the heavy lifting of removing obstacles.
Strong Leaders Need Strong Core Values
As leaders, we’ve all probably heard from top leadership coaches or read in leadership books that, if we are having a bad day, we shouldn’t show it too often. Our employees are watching us all the time, so that means we have to be on top of our game at all times, no matter how we’re actually feeling that day. And you’ve most likely asked yourself:
· Am I smiling?
· Do I look happy?
· Am I frustrated?
· Do I look annoyed?
Let’s flip these questions on their head.
Instead of worrying about what we should not do, we should instead focus on what we should do. This personal challenge goes back to having your own set of personal core values. Your values affect your life in three ways:
· They define who you are today.
· They focus your energy on what’s most important.
· They dictate how you react to life in general.
When you define your values and put them into action, they will override any “bad day” you might have, and your employees will react positively instead of negatively. By living out your values with authentic intention, you show your employees your true self – not some stoic façade. This translates to becoming a more effective leader.
Your core values serve as guideposts for right living, right action, and forward motion.
Your Core Values v. Your Company Values
As you’d imagine, the journey to discover the values that define you will be deeply personal. You can discover them only by understanding who you are at an elemental level. This can only occur as the result of deep soul searching, which is why I cannot define them for you.
However, personal values and company values are different. Personal core values are the set of rules by which you conduct yourself at all times – no matter what. Company values are the rules your company lives by when dealing with each other, clients, partners, and the world around them. By extension, these are the behaviors employees must display while working.
Values are about imposing a set of fundamental, strategically sound beliefs on your company. When I teach companies how to develop core values, I use the classic exercise “Mission to Mars” developed by Jim Collins. The basic setup is as follows:
1. Pretend you have to provide five team members from your company to go to Mars and be observed by the Martian culture.
2. The Martians want to observe what most accurately illustrates your company’s culture.
3. They especially want to see that which is right, best and noble about your culture.
4. Since the Martians cannot speak or understand human language, your team members can only communicate by living out your Core Values. No verbal communication allowed.
With this exercise, your goal as a leader is to identify which of your people best represents the organization. As your ambassadors, they should have the truest understanding of what your company is about and then display those principles accordingly.
I typically encourage leaders to not send people solely based on performance, as your highest performers aren’t necessarily representative of your culture. Instead, look for people who command the highest level of respect from their peers and display the highest level of competency. Select people who you feel best serve as a slice of your company’s DNA.
In short, this exercise represents is the innate struggle of defining core values – they define you and only you, and it’s up to you and only to live them out.
However, even though I am not able to take you on your journey, I want to share my story of how I discovered my six personal core values. I hope it serves as a positive example and launchpad into determining yours.
The Journey to Discover My Personal Core Values
Early on in my spiritual journey to become a better person, father, leader, and human, I realized that, while I had helped the companies I ran develop their core values, I had never developed my personal values.
I adapted the “Mission to Mars” exercise to identify my personal core values by asking myself the following questions:
· What are my values that display a true understanding of who I am and how to act?
· What characteristics?
· Why are they so good?
· What do they bring to me and others regardless of whether or not I am recognized for living them?
· Do these resonate with me?
· Are they real?
· Am I passionate about them?
I started by listing qualities that existed in me, but since I was taking the journey from a “Type A” CEO to one who has full self-awareness, I included the new ones I wanted to learn to live every day. While my initial list was about one dozen, I knew core values are supposed to be no more than “a handful of rules.” I then sat with my list for a few weeks determining which of my core values would best support me on my journey. Eventually, I landed on six, and they’ve been the foundation of my life ever since.
My Personal Core Values
Trust is the foundation of every relationship, whether personal or professional. It’s also the foundation of my relationship with myself.
This is the ability to speak my truth to others, especially when wrapped in kindness. It’s how I can get through the most difficult conversations. It’s also what brings me freedom.
The counterbalance to my serious side, I focus on smiling, so my face and spirit are truly opened up to laughter.
Representing the inherent worth in every person, respect does not have to be earned. To respect someone is to honor them as a fellow human being on the journey of life. It acknowledges they are valuable without any disclaimers or expectations.
This is about creating and maintaining a real connection with another human being. Because, as Don Henley wrote, it’s only in conversation that we get to the heart of the matter.
Enthusiasm empowers different parts of my life because of passion. In turn, this creates curiosity, which gives me the opportunity to learn and grow. Passion gives me a tremendous feeling of being alive.
Ultimately, defining your core values is an essential part of a growth plan for your personal life and for your business. Are you interested in exploring how your personal core values can help you become a better leader, partner, friend, parent, and person? Contact me today!