Bringing Values Alive at Work

I had a recent conversation with one of my coaching clients about how deep we can go in making the stated values come alive that the company he led had established. He quickly realized that the answer to his inquiry was “as deep as you (the leader) intend, personally adopt and model, and act upon.”

Many organizations today have determined the core values that they post up on their websites, include in their employee handbooks, and post around the workplace. The question is, is it just window dressing to keep up with everyone else doing the same, or are these values really a meaningful part of the leadership and culture of the firm?

In speaking with people at all levels of many organizations, both in for and non-profits, my experience is that too often the values are not as alive, impactful and meaningful as people would hope. The best laid plans and early activities give way to ‘life-as-usual’ and over time values take more and more a backseat. I think the main reason for the lack of values being fully integrated is that living by values, both personally and professionally, is a very difficult thing to do.

What most people don’t realize is, you must make a conscious decision to take time identifying core values, determining their meaning, having lots of conversations about how to apply them in a myriad of scenarios, and then making a declaration, a commitment, to actually live them. In an organization a few extra steps are further required to get all employees informed and on-board. Then the real effort comes as you keep your awareness open regarding the values, on a moment-by-moment, day-by-day basis that also requires a similar level of commitment by all involved in order for you to be a ‘values-based company’. Whew … no wonder values drift in most workplaces … the new effort is just much more than originally expected.

On top of all this, the real challenge in maintaining the values comes in holding oneself and others accountable to the values when tough situations, sticky people-issues and big problems occur. In those instances we most often get emotionally triggered and forget or angrily toss the values aside. If we are a leader and ignore or walk-over a value, and other employees witness that occurrence, and nothing happens afterward to address it or clean it up, then you might as well toss the whole values effort out the window. Employees will chalk it up to just another ‘management fad’ and diminish the entire values initiative. When people see incongruence between what we say we hold true and our behaviors, then you create an even worse situation than prior, and employees lose trust, confidence and respect.

Instituting values is a huge undertaking, yet the organizations that have done so all share common wisdoms to learn from. Having a values-based company:

– Takes total commitment from the very top of the organization, all the way through the entire management system.

– Takes lots of open dialog to bring as many people into the values conversations.

– Requires people to be open, vulnerable, honest and heard.

– Requires everyone to be open to changing their thoughts and behaviors.

– Has an on-going process all in itself to ensure it stays alive and provides the compass and glue for people and teams to make the best decisions possible.

– Requires that you have a way for people to highlight in present-time when values are not upheld, and that an agreed way to resolve the breach and get back on track has been established and followed.

– Takes time, since it is a never-ending series of daily commitments.

If you have had your values initiatives active for a while, some of the things you can use to self-reflect and audit how values come alive, or don’t, in your organization are on the following questions:

– Does the CEO (top decision-maker) live, speak and walk the values in their everyday dealings with employees, customers, vendors, investors, the environment and communities?

– Do the top leaders live, speak and walk the values in their everyday dealings with employees, customers, vendors, investors, the environment and communities?

– Do all the managers, supervisors and lead-personnel live, speak and walk the values in their everyday dealings with employees, customers, vendors, investors, the environment and communities?

– To what degree do all the employees of the organization know, understand, refer-to, call-out, and help each other live and work by the values?

– To what degree are the values a part of every employee’s performance review and expectations?

– Are the values mentioned at every meeting, especially when decisions are to be made?

– Are values mentioned and tapped when conflicts arise and people come together to find resolution?

– Have all employees been trained in what the values mean and how the leadership intends to utilize them?

– Do your employees feel safe, protected and trust enough to ‘call-out’ to a co-worker, and even those in management/leadership positions, when they witness a breech in one of your values?

– If a breach of a value seems to be the best decision at that moment, how transparent, responsible and accountable is the management person(s) making the call?

– When was the last time you had a conversation about the validity of your values? Made any changes, enhancements to them? Added any new ones?

– On a scale of 1-10, how do think employees feel that they, and others, live and work by the values?

– On a scale of 1-10, how do you feel you live and work by your values?

Living and leading by values isn’t easy, but it will lead you toward living a life of full of passion, purpose, prosperity and peace of mind like you have never known. Are you really ready to live a values-based life, and be a values-based leader? Continuous conscious attention and effort is the only way to successfully let your values be your guide!

The Next Paradigm Shift for Leadership and Work

Imagine for a moment . . . “You awaken from a wonderful sleep, and as your thoughts arrive around your pending day at work, you feel a sense of positive energy flow through you. You spend a few moments seeing your day ahead, the people you will come in contact with, the work you will do, the challenges you will face, and then the big feeling wafts over you which says ‘I can’t wait to get there’! You pop out of bed, follow your morning routine with zest, travel to work with serenity and excitement, and arriving at work you dive fully in to your day. Your sense of engagement in your work, with your workplace, and with your co-workers is palpable. Projects get done on time, ahead of budget, with higher quality than was expected. New ideas to address issues and challenges come to you and others, and you resolve them with vigor. A few new learnings come your way, and you help others gain their own richer insights. Not that things are perfect, but your sense of confidence in yourself and your teammates’ results in successful outcomes is heightened, as is a sense of peace and happiness. You are reminded by others it’s time to go home, and you do so with a sense of fulfillment and appreciation. Everyone you encounter the rest of your day is the beneficiary of your good spirits. You drift to sleep with a healthy conscience.”

Now I know you’re asking: “Is this even possible, or is this just a fantasy? Could I/others ever achieve such a state of being through our work?”

If you are in a leadership role, what would leading a crew who felt this way about their work feel like? Can you imagine that work can be such a spring of well-being? For a growing number of people such engagement, enjoyment, and fulfillment in their work is not only possible, it is their current experience!

The current paradigm in business and work, which has been around for the last 200 years, is centered on an “ownership-management” paradigm. Our system places the needs of the owners and those at the upper levels of management in first-position. While the current paradigm has been at the fore-front of  millions of improvements, and has driven prosperity upward while reducing poverty, it also has its short-comings. It is based on a belief system that sees scarcity and limits all around, believes that the most-fit should survive, that winners take all, and (s)he who puts their own money at risk should reap the rewards.  The level of consciousness of the conditioned self (ego) in this paradigm at the ownership level is driven by greed, the need for more, and protecting what’s one’s own. Egoism in the management ranks is focused on control and power, is mistrusting of people, and also seeks to further self-interests. Ego at the employee level centers on many forms of fear, as in the fear of losing one’s job should an employee displease a boss. This paradigm, while the creator of so many great things in our lives and world, is also limiting the human spirit from becoming more fully aware, more alive, more authentic. The results of this paradigm give us low levels of engagement in all areas of work.

Using engagement as a measurement of productivity and effectiveness, Gallup reported in June 2015 that “the percentage of U.S. workers engaged in their jobs continued at 31.9%. Gallup has consistently found managers, executives and officers to be the most engaged workers. 40.4% of those performing in these roles were engaged, placing them far ahead of the national average and every other work role. Clerical/office workers were the second-most engaged group, at 36%, while construction/mining workers (28.3%) and service workers (28.1%) were the least engaged groups.”  So basically, two-thirds of our workers in America (82 million) don’t want to be working at the place they are employed, only do the bare minimum to keep their jobs, or worse yet, are toxic and negatively infect their workspace. This is a failure of leadership.

Is this really the best we can do? Are there ways to turn these uninspiring statistics around?

The way ahead is through bringing on the next paradigm in thinking about the nature of people, of work, and how we come together to make things happen. The new paradigm has already begun in many organizations. While still far few in number statistically, that has been changing over the past 20 years as more and more leaders are stepping into their own authenticity, are expanding their own levels of consciousness, and are showing up in their roles more powerfully.

This new leadership paradigm is driven by conscious leadership. It comes from a higher level of awareness / consciousness that has at its center the “primacy of the human being.” This transformational consciousness integrates the four keys aspects of being human: the physical needs, mental strengths, emotional dynamics, and fuels our spiritual capacities. People are not seen as means to an end, they are valued as partners, and are invited into the flow of information and decision-making. Ego gives way to authenticity, and people are welcomed to more fully ‘show-up’ at work, where their personal values, passions, gifts and sense of purpose come alive. When people align with their organization’s sense of mission and culture, they naturally, easily become more engaged, giving more of themselves and being of higher service to the organization’s stakeholders.

A seminal way to expand awareness toward being a more conscious leader is to begin a journey of self-inquiry, undertaking a full assessment of one’s own core values, assess innate strengths and gifts, connect with what instigates passion, do a deep dive into determining deeply held beliefs that support and detract from happiness and success, and uncover a meaningful sense of purpose. There are many outlets and methodologies that can serve this inner quest such as meditation, mindfulness practice, personal and professional coaching, self-help and transformational books and programs, and assessments tools measuring one’s emotional and spiritual intelligence. What a person discovers on such a personal path also helps them understand and appreciate how other people tick, and allows them to expand their awareness of their leadership footprint. A challenging journey yes, but one of highest importance.

If higher productivity, more creativity, increasing ROI and greater levels of happiness, meaning and fulfillment are on your agenda, then look within yourself, no matter your current role. Work on expanding your own levels of awareness, grow your emotional intelligence, tap into your own innate strengths, find your purpose in life, and consider seeking coaching.

Will you be a part of building the new paradigm at work, or will you remain handcuffed to the old one? It’s your choice! Choose consciously!

How to Live Your Values

In my last blog we talked about what values are and how they are the deep internal motivators for us in making decisions and taking actions. The key to living an authentic life and being a conscious leader is to first clarify your own core values, then align your life and work to your core values, and then hold yourself responsible and accountable for your choices and results.

Let me offer an example. I have determined that for me to live a life of meaning, integrity, prosperity, joy and fulfillment the following core values are my beacons: Presence-My Connection to Awareness; Authenticity-Be Real, Open, Vulnerable; Vitality– Aliveness in Health, Wealth & Relationships; Service in Re-Awakening Others; Evolve – To Grow & Transcend. Over the years my process of learning and maturing has led these honed values to be the energy that wakes me up every day, every moment, and every encounter.

When I use my core values as the lenses and filters in which I look at situations, options, choices, decisions and outcomes, I find that I am overall much more effective, productive, impactful, happy and content with the things, people and realities in my life. If I feel stressed, off-balance, or other negative emotions, or if the outcomes I was intending don’t materialize, then I can come back to my values and hold them up in these situations to see where I went astray from them in some way. Typically, when I don’t get what I want, or I am feeling anger, frustration, cynicism, or some other negative emotion it’s because I am not in alignment with one or more of my core values. The challenge is to remain awake and aware of this gift and of the power of my values. When I do, I experience so much more of the positives life has to offer, and when I go unconscious or am reacting from some pre-conditioned way of thinking/feeling, I experience what I don’t want or desire. It’s always my choice, my responsibility, and I am fully accountable to myself. Self-awareness and self-assessment are all I need to live intentionally.

There are three key stages in order to live a values-based life, or to have a values-based organization:

Stage 1: Clarity on what is important – Determine your Core Values.

The most important thing in life is to decide what is most important. To truly live by your values, there can be only one boss – your values. Living by values is not another fad, it is a way of life. Realize that living by your values is a lifelong process, and decide to begin the journey now. First, clarify your own personal values. Then, if you are leading a team, group or organization take the collective core values of those present and begin from there to see what that group holds as most important, and distill from there your group core values that will drive decisions forward.

Stage 2: Aligning daily life to your values.

Look at how you can express your values in everyday living experiences.

At home: how are you interacting with your spouse/significant other, with your children and your family at-large? Ask yourself, “Am I fulfilling my true self, performing my roles, and loving my family from the values I hold most dear?”

At work: look at how you are showing up with your boss, with your coworkers, with your customers and suppliers. See how your relationships are going through the lenses of your values. Ask yourself, “Is this the right team, company, job, pay, and career that aligns to my values? What needs to change in order for me to be working at peak effectiveness?”

At play: look at how you are interacting with friends. See if your hobbies and interests are still engaging and aligning to you in the light of your core values. Ask yourself, “Is this what I truly want, where I am, who I’m with, and what we do?”

Stage 3: Personal Responsibility & Accountability.

Check in with yourself regularly to see if the results your achieving in life reflect your values. Be as objective as you can and evaluate results through the filters of your values. See what went in to making the choices you made, and see if your core values were present in the decision-making process. You always have a choice, and when you find you are misaligned in some aspect of life, you can choose differently, and reassess.

Align your values to your daily living. Define what your values mean to you. Engage the people, places, things, situations and opportunities in your life in accordance to your values. Use your values in all the big decisions in your life, from key relationships, to your work, your hobbies and your living spaces. Values are the ‘how’ we go about living our lives, so find your core values and live by them. Happiness, contentment, joy, meaning, fulfillment and prosperity are some of the key outcomes and benefits to living a values-based life!

To be truly successful, there must be congruency between Who you are and How you show up.

Knowing and Living Your Core Values

The fourth facet of being an Authentic Leader is leading a principled life. Knowing your own core values, whether personally or within your organization, and living by them, is being seen as a root success factor in life and work.

There has been a great deal of talk about values over the past years. While they have always been behind human motivation, they seem to be more evident everywhere we go, especially in our current political scene and in corporate America. Exactly what are values, and why are they important? Let’s explore these questions and offer a method for you to reconnect with your core values and better understand others in the process.

The dictionary defines values as something that has “worth in usefulness or importance to the possessor; utility or merit; is a principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable.”

Values are the most powerful form of motivation. Values are the “what” we do to lead fulfilling lives. Values influence every decision we make from where we go to school, where we shop, where we live, who we work for, how we spend money, how we choose relationships and raise our children. Values are the inner rules for how we live. If our goals, priorities, careers, and lifestyle choices are not congruent with our inner rules, we get stressed and out of sync. Clarity and commitment to our values creates purpose, vision, synergy, clear focus, energy, excellence, and power.

Values are important because most of our actions, whether we know it or not, are based on values. Values lead to attitudes, viewpoints, and opinions that lead people to act in certain ways. If you want to know why people are acting the way they are, study their values. People are spontaneously energetic with respect to things that interest them, but the core of motivation lies in valuing something. If you value something, you try to attain it. Get your values right, and all other factors will fall in line.

As my business school professor Peter Drucker said, “It is more important to be clear about who you are than to try to make big changes (that often end up in failure).” By knowing who you are at your core, and what is most important, you can become who you are. Drucker also summed up, “Values, in other words, are and should be the ultimate test in any situation or choice in life.” Stephen Covey also adds the wisdom, “Personal leadership is the process of keeping your vision and values before you and aligning your life to be congruent with them.”

People are increasingly engaged in the search for meaning, purpose, inner authority, peace, truth, love, compassion, worth, dignity, wisdom, and a higher power. They seek a sense of unity with others and the means to express themselves. Core values are the principles that govern how individuals, groups, and organizations operate. These values are the glue that holds people together during times of chaos and unpredictability. Values steer people in their right direction. Individuals, groups, organizations, and cultures share core values. The important point for each of us is that knowing our own core values is a critical element on the road to personal authenticity.

Our early values are instilled in us by parents, family, friends, schools, religions, and our society at large. As we have discussed in previous blogs, beliefs and values come from past programming. Unless we, as adults, take time to do a deeper dive into what is really true for each of us now, we just keep living from the past and other people’s values. This is often the root of internal disharmony, stress, confusion, unhappiness and failure. If we don’t take charge of clarifying and living by our own values, then we are stuck and live life less fulfilled.

People often confuse values for what they “are good at” or most qualified to do. Values are more specific. They are what we have chosen over a lifetime and choose to hang onto for life. This is where the power of values comes into play in making major life decisions. Values are your prime motivators. Knowing them and living by them is the natural guidance system that will lead to a happier, healthier you. They are your system for choosing the things in life that serve you best: relationships, jobs, homes, and the like. Knowing your values will empower you and free you to make the best decisions for yourself.

Values differ from virtues and states of being. Values are motivators, and virtues are the moral and ethical compass for how we live. States of being are the root mental, emotional, and spiritual states we naturally have available to us and desire to experience, which leads to happiness. Which virtues and states do you resonate with and express?

Human Virtues

Charity, Compassion, Courage, Excellence, Faith, Forgiveness, Goodness, Honesty, Hope, Judgment, Perseverance, Prudence, Righteousness, Responsibility, Self-Discipline, Temperance, Tolerance, Work.

Positive States of Being

Awe, Comfort, Freedom, Gratitude, Happiness, Health, Helper/Service, Humor, Joy, Light, Love, Passion, Peace, Sharing, Truth.

Virtues and states of being flow into our values. Values motivate us into action—through our actions we exhibit virtues or vices, creating positive or negative states of being. The key states of being are what we all want to experience, feel, and share with others. Virtues are the behaviors we can choose that help us live a true and authentic life. Values are what we treasure and are passionate about, and influence us into action. While we may feel that we treasure or value states of being such as love, peace, or freedom, they manifest only when we live a virtuous life that is in alignment with our values. Some may feel that the virtues of honesty, courage, and compassion are values, but they are behaviors that we can choose to display in any situation, and are universally available to everyone.

Virtues and states of being have positive and negative aspects. We can choose behaviors and develop characteristics that we call vices, while negative states of being are called fear, anger, worry, doubt, blame, guilt, and depression. We always have choices, and our choices result in habits of behavior, character, and states of being. Look at your patterns, and see how your life reflects virtuous acts and positive states of being.

Taking quiet time to reflect and clarify your values is one of the most powerful, loving, helpful and meaningful activity each of us can do for ourselves. I was introduced to the Socratic Method for deducing my core values over 20 years ago, and my life was instantly transformed through the clarity and usefulness of the exercise. I invite you to click on the link below, which will take you to the exercise I have in my book Wake Up, Get Real, Be Happy – Becoming Your Authentic Self, that will walk you through the steps to come directly in touch to your own core values.

Values Clarification Exercise

Knowing the unique blend or core values you possess is powerful. You can consciously use them in all decisions you have to make, and when your choices align with your values, you become more alive, more aware, more connected, more effective, and more fulfilled. Too many people think they know their values, and often drift in the way they look at things and make decisions. Those who know their core values live more purposefully, more peacefully, and more prosperously. The opportunity is right here – right now. I invite you take this most crucial journey into your own authenticity. Enjoy your journey!

Don’t try to ‘change’ yourself – transform into, and just become, your highest and best Authentic Self!