Values are the third ingredient of success in business, the first being our vision which provides a constant reminder of our destination and the second our mission, to plan how we are going to get there. Values play a critical role in ensuring we stay on track.
Whether or not we realise it, our values are our GPS for the journey! They guide us every day in our business decisions and direction. Whether your values manifest as excellent customer service, a willingness to listen to clients, integrity, honesty or fun, they are what are most important to us and ultimately what distinguishes our business from the one down the road.
Identifying our values
Identifying our values can be tricky as most of us have years of conditioning of other people’s and society’s values to peel away. These may be overt, such as Aussie values, family values, religious or moral values, or they may be less obvious, for example what everyone else does or what our friends and family expect of us.
This can result in us carrying around a sack load of inauthentic values that do not reflect who we truly are. This can be seen in action in the broader business community, when different organisations trot out the same values statements, to the extent it is rarely possible to identify a business solely by virtue of its values.
It is important to realise that all too often, shoulds masquerade as values, and the sad fact is that most of us spend a life time making personal and business decisions based on them, which is effectively the same as letting other people tell us what to think and do!
The following questions can help shed light on our genuine values and help us achieve success in business:
- What really inspires me?
- What do I get passionate, angry, excited or ecstatic about?
- When was I so engrossed, so caught up in the moment, that I lost track of time?
- What things do I get excited about and then talk myself out of?
- What is important to me?
- What do I really care about?
- Who do I envy, or whose abilities or achievements do I admire?
- What are their values?
The answers will help you build a personal guidance system that can be used to make decisions with clarity and prompt changes in direction. Ask yourself how you feel when making decision A compared with decision B? If one feels good, the other not so good, chances are you have your answer.
Another powerful tool for identifying our values is to look at the things we find most painful, irritating, upsetting or annoying. For example, things that annoy me include poor customer service and lack of communication from suppliers. As a result, excellent customer service and clear communication are the most important values in my work. Remembering that often clearly defines the actions I need to take to stay on the right track. This may be as simple as a quick phone call to a client to check they are happy with the way the work is progressing.
Discovering our true values is essential to ultimate success in business and in life. Without them, we are unable to adhere to our vision statement and personal mission statement. If you feel your work and life has become unfulfilling, it is a sure sign that you are off course.
A final, extreme sounding idea to get really focussed on what is important to us is to ask what we would want to do, be or achieve if we only had a year left to live. Challenging I know, but what is the net worth of our lives if we continue to put off or discount the things we value the most?