“Authentic values are those by which a life can be lived, which can form a people that produces great deeds and thoughts” Allan Bloom

Values seem “soft”. Yet values are the critical foundation for any individual, team, or organization to truly achieve sustainable and meaningful success.

Yes! we talk of our values and we put words to represent our values on a plaque, we do not work with our values. We procrastinate with decisions, we hesitate on actions, and we have trouble with relationships. Our challenges relate back to our values. When we do not work with our values, we do not achieve our best. With clear values, we have a path for our best decisions, our greatest results, and our most enduring relationships. Values are the guide to navigate the path to achieving what is most important to us.


So, what are values and how to we bring them to our work.


Warren Buffet put is quite simply as “value is what you get”. Values are described as the relative worth, merit, or importance of something. Values are defined as meaning and significance. Values are also listed as principles that are considered worthwhile. The origin of the word values dates back to 1303 meaning to be “of worth”.


We see values as the principles and standards that guide our actions and thinking. Your values drive your decisions, your commitments, and your initiative. Values are the core beliefs that guide us to take action – or not to take action. We take action when the direction in front of us fits our values – when it doesn’t we procrastinate, delay, and defer. If we act outside of our values, we fall out of integrity and we fall behind.


Values define our core being – who we really are. Our values have roots in our past and can change with the context of our lives (when we marry and have a family our values may change somewhat from our single days). However, for most of us, our core values stay with us over our entire life. Being true to our values can bring us our greatest meaning whereas being off of our values can bring our worst conflicts and stress. Our values determine our integrity.


Your values show up in your life in seven major areas – what you want most, what you think about most, how you use your money, what you do with your free time, whose company you enjoy, who you admire, and what makes you laugh.


As the pace of change and complexity accelerates in our world, strong values are necessary to be successful.

When you are making decisions,  the best route open to you will the one that is a match and fit for your values (or at least some of your values). If you are faced with decisions that go against your values – even unknowingly – you will feel something in your stomach. You are uneasy about the decision and may procrastinate and hesitate. Something doesn’t feel quite right. With clear values in front of you, you can quickly test your decision against your values to see if there is a fit and if you will be comfortable and committed going forward.


We can set goals that make logical sense but we still don’t move forward on them. Generally, when we don’t work towards goals, the reason is that the goal and the results don’t fit our values. When we are setting our goals, we need to assess the fit of the outcome to our values. If there is a fit between the goal and our values, we will commit ourselves and make it happen. When the fit is not there, it is just another item on our “to-do” list that will keep moving down the list. 


One reason teams may not be able to work at their best to support the strategy is that the values of the organization or the strategy do not match any of their values. We strongly believe that for an employee to succeed at their role in an organization there needs to be a match between some of the values of the organization (the culture) and those of the individual.


Even our relationships work – or don’t work – based on our values. Can you follow a leader when you don’t respect them and their values? No. Can you have a meaningful and rewarding relationship with someone where you don’t agree with their values? Probably not. Being aware of your values and the values of the people around you is critical to building successful relationships.


Values are at the root of who we are and how we achieve and lead. Without clear values, people will not accept you as a leader. When you do not live your values, you will not lead. Lacking values or not following your values will not bring meaningful success or significance.

The first step is to identify your core values. We generally see people having six to seven values that are most meaningful to them and form the foundation of their decisions, goals, and relationships. There are intrinsic values that are those most compelling principles that stay with you for your entire life. Intrinsic values are rooted in your upbringing, your family, your community and define what your character. Extrinsic values are those that are formed over our lifetime and may change based on where we are – they are our reaction to the world. We typically have two or three intrinsic values and a similar number of extrinsic values.


Finding the words to represent your values is wonderful but the true benefit results from our own personal definition of the word. When we describe what a specific value means to us, we can communicate and use it much easier. Words on a plaque are not enough. Leaders talk about their organization’s values and list off the words but employees still do not always live the values. To live the value, we need to have a description of what the behavior of that value looks like. That description will guide your own personal achievement as well as what is important about others to you.



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