The Value of Values

Identifying core values has been a more frequent theme in my coaching and facilitation work recently. In the last couple of weeks I’ve coached clients who want to re-visit their values and I ran a workshop just today about how to break through the barriers to outstanding success, where again we identified the participants’ values as part of the process.

So here are my thoughts on what values are, how they support us, and why they are so important

What are values?

For me, values are usually one word, abstract concepts. They describe who we are and what is important to us rather than who we think we should be. We are naturally drawn to them and eager to express them. They don’t need any effort because they are intrinsic to who we are and when we live our lives in alignment with our values we are creating the environment that supports us to be the best we can be. Michael Angier described identifying values as being like developing a photograph in a darkroom. They are already imprinted and just need to be revealed.

How do they support us?

Clear values help us…

  • Understand who we are and what we stand for
  • Choose how we spend our time and who with
  • Determine whether our actions are “right” or “wrong”
  • Notice when we are going off course
  • Make good decisions
  • Stay motivated and inspired

Why are they so important?

Clear values are important because they are the only sustainable basis for goal setting. The reason so many goals require us to drive ourselves hard to accomplish them is they are not aligned with our values. We can all discipline ourselves to take actions towards goals for a limited period of time but it’s hard to keep up in the longer term or when the going gets tough. Any achievements will be also be short lived and unfulfilling. Compare that with identifying your values and then setting a goal for each one. Getting to work on those goals is far more likely to take less effort and produce lasting and meaningful outcomes.

Being clear on our values and expressing them in our lives, gives us a sense of True North. They help us focus on the compass rather than the clock.

The Single Most Effective Question You Can Ask

When you are implementing change, one thing is for sure – not everything you do will work perfectly. Taking risks, experimenting, making mistakes and learning from them, are all part of the process of moving you towards your desired outcomes and feedback is a major part of that process.

Feedback is also vital in ensuring that everyone is actively engaged and contributing their views, and ideas right from the outset.  If you are afraid that asking people’s views will open a can of worms, imagine what would happen if you didn’t open the can! Their responses would remain hidden from you, but likely to surface in other ways further down the line, with the potential to seriously undermine the change initiative.

So for a simple practical way of gathering feedback, ask this single most effective question…

On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate:

  • our customer service?
  • the new brochure?
  • our teamwork?
  • the quality of our relationship?
  • this presentation?
  • the effectiveness of the new system?
  • our new product?
  • my coaching?
  • this newsletter?

The score itself isn’t as important as the thinking and discussion which follows. So once you have the score it’s useful to ask questions like:

  • What’s already happening, even infrequently, that puts the score where it is?
  • How can we build on that?
  • What would 10 look like?

And the most important follow up question of all:

  • How will we know when we have moved to the next point on the scale? (What will we be doing, seeing, saying, hearing and feeling?)

This approach is empowering because it doesn’t focus on problems (Where are we going wrong? or Who can we blame?) but on solutions (What is already working? How can we maximize our strengths?) Also, because everyone is involved and all opinions are valid, the agreed actions are much more likely to be implemented.

“Happy Learning”

Stressed? You’ve got 3 choices

Today I’ve conducted 5 coaching sessions with managers and there is a pattern running through all of them. A feeling of being overwhelmed, stressed and lacking any control over their own destiny. This isn’t surprising given that the managers are from various companies going through redundancies, re-organisations and other major changes.  However, just because it is a normal response to imposed change it doesn’t mean we have to feel helpless. The challenge is to focus on the parts that are within our control rather than waste precious time and energy on things outside it.

Stress happens when there is a mismatch between the demands being placed on us and our perceived resources to meet those demands. When we are not challenged enough we are in danger of rust out (I don’t see as much of that these days) and when the demands are greater than our perceived resources we risk burn out.

According to Ross and Altmaier in “Intervention in Occupational Stress” stress management is a decision making process and there are only 3 choices to make. We can:

Alter it – by changing something in how we approach our work, e.g. problem solving, clearer communication, better planning.

Avoid it – by removing ourselves from the situation or not getting into it in the first place, e.g. walking away, having clear boundaries, saying no, or even leaving the organisation.

Accept it – by building our resilience to it, e.g. self care, support systems, identifying goals and values, and by changing our unhelpful beliefs and perceptions about the situation or ourselves.

Which choices are you making? They may not be ideal, but they are choices, and they are yours.