“To thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night follows the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” Hamlet
While going through some items in my office, I came across a forgotten compass. As I polished it and decided it was in the “keep” category, my mind flashed back to when it was given to me.
I’d like to say it was an heirloom from my great, great grandfather who came here from Ireland, or that it was a rare find in an antique shop. However, it came to me just six years ago at a client function. About 100 of us in the room that evening received the same parting gift. While there’s no monetary or historical sentiment, there’s a reason I’ll be holding on to it for years to come simply as a reminder.
We ride the waves of uncertainty and uncontrollable tides year in and year out, or, sometimes even daily. In coaching clients, I often borrow the metaphoric term “seasons”, as a reminder that just as seasons change, so do our circumstances. And, in the spirit of growth and impermanence, so do parts of us.
However, there’s one aspect of who we are that should transcend the momentary situation or longer season we’re experiencing. It’s a constant, an ally and a consistent reminder to help us in the moment as well as keep us looking ahead on what’s most important.
The strongest leaders have a compass and true north that defines who they are and how they show up. In a word – it’s our values. Here’s why:
Values Guide Our Behaviors
The leaders who lean into their values never have to question the behaviors required of them. When we know our values, how we show up daily happens with a natural and unconscious cadence. If we need a quick check-in on whether our actions are honoring us and others, our values will tell us.
In a recent group learning activity, we were each asked to identify the forward behaviors that support our values. Since my number one value is relationships and connection, the people I love and serve are given priority. Knowing this drives my actions to focus on those who matter most – while also honoring the other values of professional and personal achievement, wellness, generosity and integrity. If we’re not engaging in behaviors that link back to our values, it’s time to bring out the compass to find our way home.
Values Expedite Decision-Making
Knowing our values eliminates much of the pressure and angst experienced in making some of the toughest decisions. In both the easiest and most difficult scenarios, we can ask how the decision outcome will support our values. The answer is either yes or no. Kouzes and Posner, in their legendary leadership read, THE LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE, position it as “the moral imperative”. At any decision point, they encourage us to ask ourselves, “What’s the one thing we ‘can’t not do’?” Our values guide us there.
Values Help Us Determine the Company We Keep
Whether it’s acquiring a firm, selecting strategic partners, engaging a board of advisors, recruiting team members or pursuing clients, values are at the heart of alignment. When there is synchronicity, the resonance is undeniable. We don’t have to explain ourselves, because those with whom we associate would show up similarly or get to the same decision, even though their path to get there may be different.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t interact with or enrich and broaden our understanding from others with a diversity of values and beliefs. It doesn’t mean we don’t want some disagreement that will lead us to the best outcome. It means simply that common mission and purpose are easier to achieve with common values.
If you haven’t taken the time to concretely define and write down your personal values, anytime is the right time. Yet, January may be the perfect time as you look for ways to bring greater clarity and authenticity to your year.
- Are this year’s goals tethered to your values?
- Have your actions and decisions so far in 2019 moved you toward your values?
- If you were asked what nudges you in moments of truth, would you automatically say, “my values”?
When we’re true to ourselves and our values, we can find the compass that may have been forgotten that will guide us more effortlessly – regardless of the season we’re experiencing in our journey.