Putting Values to the Test
You, Your Brand, Your Values was an event organised by Howard Feather for Natwest Women in Business yesterday and I was proud to be part of it by talking with 50 other business owners about workplace culture.
A great question was asked to the speakers about how we hold on to our values during the challenges of everyday life. We answered it and then I had a really stressful afternoon that put my values to the test. It made me really stop and think about the question I’d been asked earlier in the day.
My son has been off school, poorly this week, and I’ve been up every night looking after him. Juggling my work, caring for him and attending my daughter’s choir performance meant I missed a deadline I’d promised a client. I felt torn between sticking to my work promise and my children’s needs. My honesty about my values was understood as the client shares the same values. It really emphasised how important it is to work with people who are aligned with our priorities in life.
Later, I stopped to help a teenage girl, who I don’t know, in my village. She’d been standing on the side of the road for 40 minutes, in the rain. I was driving home to complete my work for the deadline I missed on Monday and I know I had an hour until I was back into mummy-mode. However, I stopped to ask if she was ok. What followed was an hour of helping her, long calls with the police about my concerns for the girl being vulnerable and a number of abusive calls from a taxi company who gave her a lift and didn’t get paid, despite the promise. The driver refused to take the crime number to report the offence and instead put his energy into telling me that I shouldn’t try to be so helpful. I was left feeling exhausted, stressed and quite fed up, questioning whether I’d done the right thing. It made me stop and reflect. I realised I had been right, having stuck to my values about looking out for people. But it felt tough and I wonder how many people would have stopped when they had other ‘important things’ to do. My work had to wait and I’ll have to find another taxi company to use in the future!
Values basically define what’s most important for you in life, and if you make them a priority that becomes practice, you are more likely to be happy and successful. By identifying our values, we can begin to design a life that is in better alignment our true self. Here are some values I hear people talk about a lot:
Courage – stepping outside your comfort zone
Kindness – to others, but also to yourself. Give yourself time to do something for you that feels positive. What acts of kindness can you show to others around you now? Altruism also increases the feel-good Serotonin and decreases stress, depression and anxiety.
Patience – put yourself in others’ shoes to see their perspective.
Integrity – being authentic and behaving in accordance with your beliefs. People engage with people – be yourself at work.
Gratitude – show recognition for what others do. Don’t take it for granted or assume they know how much we appreciate them.
Growth – look for opportunities for you to grow in line with your mission and to help others do the same.
Respect – treating people well regardless of their age, income, background or role.
Make a list of your top 10 values, what they mean for you and which ones are most important. For each, write down 3 or more actions that define what these look like in practice – what you need to do to live them. Then make sure you fulfil them, regularly. Stay true to yourself.
My answer to the question about how to maintain my values…
Being clear about what my mission is and what my values are and then stopping regularly to check I’m sticking to them. It’s easier said than done when we feel like we’re on a conveyer belt and saying ‘yes’ to everything.
Also, setting boundaries that allow you to practice your values daily. For me, that is limiting the number of hours I work so that I can fulfil my role as a mum, make time for me (for example to exercise and create much-needed head-space) and stay connected to friends and family. The link between work and life in terms of achieving a balance is blurred – people look for meaning, emotional connections, a sense of achievement and status, being stretched and more from their work. This has been shown to be more important than the paycheck.
When our needs are met in the workplace and they fit with our values, we stop craving for the clock to reveal it’s time to go home. We give more and get more in return. So, take time as a team to identify what your values are and how you live these in the workplace. Notice the difference that makes to wellbeing and engagement.
Contact me to have a chat about your values and how they can drive your workplace success. firstname.lastname@example.org