Corporate companies often talk about their values. You might even find the company value statement emblazoned on the walls to remind people what is important to the organisation.

I wager that for a lot of organisations, values are just that, some words emblazoned on a wall or used in marketing and communication campaigns.

I find values at an individual level much more interesting and powerful, however, I reckon most people never spend time really digging into their own values. This is a missed opportunity as knowing and understanding our personal values can be powerful.

Our values are the basic and fundamental beliefs that motivate and guide us. They:

  • Help us determine what is important to us
  • Describe the personal qualities that we choose to embody,
  • Define the type of person we want to be, how we interact with the world around us and the way in which we treat ourselves and others.

When I work with a client to help them identify their values, to begin with, they can find it vague and difficult to define. However, with some perseverance, we get there and this gives my clients clarity to help them understand why they behave the way they do and also a framework to help guide their decision making.

To give you an example, I had a client whose highest value was flexibility so that she was able to spend time with her young children. So far, so good.

A few months into our coaching relationship her CEO invited her to apply for a role heading up the international sales function. It would be a promotion and a higher salary and my client was incredibly flattered. However, it would also mean that she would need to spend a week a month in Houston, Texas.

Having already worked on her values we were able to go back and test this role against her values and what she believed to be important to her.

She was excited about the prospect of the pay, the promotion and the international travel. However, she knew that being available for her young children was important to her and that taking on this new role would not allow her to do that. Rather than get swept away in the excitement, she was able to use what she knew about herself and her values, to make a decision that was right for her and right for her family.

She explained to her CEO that while she would love the role, the timing wasn’t right. Her CEO respected her decision. Over the course of the next year, they rescoped her role and added additional responsibilities to help her feel challenged and stretched, without having the additional burden of international travel and time away from home.

Your values also help you to understand the world around you. You perceive the world through your own specific lens which is created based on your experiences, your beliefs and your values.

Knowing your values helps you to understand why you may respond to situations in a particular way. For example, if you value adventure you may be happy to move organisations or change roles every two years. Whereas if you value stability you may be happier to stay with one organisation in the same role for long periods of time.

Both of these scenarios are perfectly valid but knowing your own values will help you to understand why you are drawn to behave in a particular way. You can also start to consider why other people behave differently to you, based on their own personal set of values.

To identify your values, you can:

  1. Reflect on the past

Spend some time reflecting and considering:

  • When have you felt the happiest at work?
  • When have you felt unhappy at work?
  • What values do you think were driving those events?

From the information that you glean from this exercise, create a list of your top 10 values

2. Review Your Values List

When you review your values list, you may see some common themes emerging. You may potentially be able to merge 2 or 3 of the values together under one heading. Create a list of your top five values that are most important to you. Keep in mind that you can come back and review and revisit these values at any time.

3. Prioritise Your Values

This bit is hard! Go through your list of values and write them in order of priority. Take the value which is your number 1 priority and compare it to all of the other values on the list, asking yourself “If I could only have priority 1 and not Priority X, Y, Z, would that be OK?” Continue doing this for the entire list.

It’s natural to feel a resistance to doing this exercise. These are your values, you want all of them. The point of the exercise is not to eliminate any of the values just to help you get a sense of perspective and priority.

Once you start to get a better sense of your values you start to evaluate events and decisions based on the values that are important to you. This in turn allows you a greater level of certainty and confidence to make the right choices for you at this point in your career.

If you would value support in defining your career values, book some time for a free no-obligation chat – I’d love to help you – here is a link to my diary.

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