What you value drives your behaviors. You can choose to be conscious of those values and purposeful in your behavior – or not.
When you’re aware of the values that guide your decisions and actions, you are able to lead with clarity, align with your organization’s values, and can be more selfless – acting on values that serve others well.
My favorite way to assist others in defining their values are to use some type of values cards (like playing cards) – they’re visual and tactile, slowing my clients down – providing a way to think through, sort, and organize what’s important to them. Here are some values cards that are free; when printed on heavy paper, they are easy to use and sort, assisting you in defining what’s important to you. I find it’s best to choose no more than five top values – that seems to be the maximum magic number that most people can remember.
So you now know what your values are. Are you using them?
Once you’ve defined your personal values, you want them to guide your actions with clarity and consistency. Set aside time to consider your actions on a weekly basis. Reflect on whether your top values have driven your past week’s behavior as you want them to. Here are some questions that can guide your reflection:
How have you treated others? What interactions have you had with others? What values were expressed in your actions? Did your behaviors toward others express the values that you are proud of? If not, what were the values behind those interactions? What behaviors do you want to have that will express your values.
How have you made decisions? What decisions have you made recently? What drove those decisions? Were they made with values that you’ve chosen as important to you? If not, why not? How will you stay true to your values with future decisions?
Do you have one set of expectations for yourself and another set for others? What expectations guide you? Are they aligned with your values? What expectations do you apply to others? Do the expectations you have for your own behaviors match those you have for others’ behaviors? How will you align your behavior with your behavior in the future? How will you communicate your expectations to others?
Are organizational values in conflict with your values? What values guide your organization (even if they’re not explicit)? Are these organizational values aligned with your own? What are the differences? Are these differences worthy of concern?
Consciously defining your values is a way for you to anchor your behaviors and decisions. Reflecting regularly on how they drive your behavior will help you to make adjustments. If it’s been some time since you’ve defined your values, it’s time to get back in touch with them. Use the card sort to figure out the most important values that will guide your decisions and actions. Keep your values visible (print them, frame them, and put them on your desk as a reminder). Reflect on them. Most importantly, use them to guide your decisions and actions consistently as you lead.