Last year in Madison as in other communities there was great social unrest. On a main street downtown, State Street, store fronts were boarded and then eventually literally covered in murals representing individual and collective values of a community. What a sight. Heartbreaking in some ways. Inspiring in others. There was pain and there was hope. Storefronts were a gallery of values.
But in everyday life, and in leading or managing others…our values aren’t as apparent. We don’t walk around with the words etched across our faces, or our body.
Wouldn’t it be great if we were that transparent? For your boss who values integrity. Your employee who values empathy. Your peer who values teamwork. We could understand their foundation and so frequently their behaviors. You would probably think very carefully about navigating, these values if they were so apparent, and maybe even to honor them.
Because the culmination of all our values, our beliefs make us who we are. They give us a unique identify. Others form impressions of us based on them.
Our values are our principles, or standards of behavior, the judgements we make of what is important in life. They guide us, they inform our decision-making process, they create focus and they also can create anger—when they are violated.
When we live life in alignment of our values, we are happier, less stressed. More in balance. When we don’t we’ll experience a dissonance. Somethings not right. And sometimes we don’t know what that is. I think of those who say they are people pleasers, who may put others needs before their own. They often know that they are putting themselves in situations in which values are not in alignment, but that behavior is hard to change. Particularly if left unexamined.
Values guide us, but where do they come from?
Sometimes it’s influenced heavily by our family. Or our religion. Our relationships, or work situations. Our access to education. We are affected by our environment. And very frequently, we aren’t even aware of this process, we adopt values unconsciously. Some of our core beliefs aren’t recognized as such.
Knowing how much they affect us, I am consistently weaving this discussion of values into leadership classes openly and transparently
Because it’s hard to lead with our values if we don’t know what they are.
I worked with a manager once who valued being strategic, she found purpose in considering the future, understanding it, building it very intentionally. She found herself working for a new leader who was very tactical, very day to day, and operational. They might have been able to form a great partnership. And maybe they were aware of those differences, could reconcile the diversity and honor it. But it was not to be.
However, once I was facilitating a team session and I knew in advance there were several people not “getting along.” When we did the values assessment and they noted their top values on a sticky note, it was very obvious to see where some of the disconnects were….
- One valued professionalism, dependability, reliability, stability
- Another valued creativity, innovation, collaboration, teamwork
It opened their eyes to some of those differences, but also how rich their relationship could be if they valued the diversity of beliefs. How could these values work in harmony? And how could they use them to purposefully strengthen the relationship? It was a moment of clarity and awareness. And a deepening of trust.
Planting Leadership Seeds:
- Assess your values:
- Prioritize them; navigate them with constraint, find those that are most important
- Keep them in the forefront
- Use for decision-making and goal setting
It’s important to remember, values are aspirational, they guide us. When we don’t live by them, we don’t have to beat ourselves up—we determine how we can do better moving forward.
Here’s an inspiring quote by Elvis: “Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave them all over everything you do.”
My thought is let’s leave them on everything we do, but also talk about them transparently. Because then we have a chance to be like the stunning gallery on State Street in Madison. The honoring of similarities and our differences. That’s the imprint we leave on the world.