Defining your personal values can be fun and there are plenty of exercises available to take. You get clarity on who you see yourself as being and what you hold dear. A personal value statement outlines what is most important to you in life. It can become your code of ethics.
You can become stuck or even disillusioned when you start applying your values to the reality of a situation. For example, one of Jack’s values is “integrity or doing the right thing.” He believes that wearing a mask when out is important to curtail the spread of COVID. Recently he forgot his mask and walked into a store where the rule was “masks required.” He was tired and did not want to drive back home to get a mask. No one said anything at the store when he entered so he got what he wanted and left.
Why do you espouse certain values and yet act out of alignment with them? There are a variety of reasons. I would like to outline several to get you thinking about what you truly value and what it takes to align with that.
Why do you espouse certain values and yet act out of alignment with them?
In the extensive work we have done with companies on developing team and organizational values, I have observed that many select values that they aspire to and that do not reflect the DNA of the current team or company. For example, one of the executive teams we coached selected “diversity” as a core value. The top leadership of the company was anything but diverse.
We had a long dialogue about diversity being an “aspirational value,” not one that reflects what the organization is modeling currently. It is ok to have aspirational values if you acknowledge it is a future state you desire and that you have a strategy and plan in place to grow toward that aspirational value. My rule of thumb is if you have 3-5 core values as a team or individual, select only one as aspirational. The rest of the values should reflect your guiding principles that you live by. Yes, we all display behaviors at times that do not align with our values as Jack did. The key here is to be aware of the behaviors that support our values and to display them most of the time.
My rule of thumb is if you have 3-5 core values as a team or individual, select only one as aspirational.
Knowing your values helps you make better decisions. Knowing what’s important assists you in assessing alternatives choosing those that are the best “fit” for you. Getting clarity on your own values is a critical step in becoming a leader. Studies on leadership show that those seen as the best and most inspiring leaders have consistent values that they display every day. In other words, leaders do what they say is important – they model what they stand for.
Your personal values should align with that of your team’s and your organization’s for you to feel like you belong there. Sometimes your personal values align well with your organization’s; in some cases, they do not. If your personal values conflict with the culture at work, you will not be happy and may stop feeling passionate about what you are doing. For example, one of your personal values may be about quality and achieving a certain standard of excellence in all that you do. If you take a job with a company that values speed and doing the bare minimum to get the product out the door faster, you will get frustrated. Your personal values and the company’s are not aligned — they are in conflict.
For some, the time you have had to think during the pandemic has brought to the surface what is important to you. I am not encouraging you to immediately quit a needed position that is at odds with your values. However, if you are feeling hollow and frustrated in your work, it may be time to re-assess your values and see how they shore up with how your organization behaves. Clarifying your values will help you long-term in creating a fulfilling life.