Values


Let’s go down to the deepest level in this section; which on the chart is represented by the ocean bed exploration. Nearly 11,000 metres under the surface of the earth, Challenger Deep as it’s named is at the southern part of the Mariana Trench, near the Philippines.

Why is this even relevant? Well, I’m not suggesting from this illustration that you are unaware of your values; that would be highly improper of me and is likely not true. That said, some have commented that while they are organised at the task level, they still feel like a hamster on a wheel just going round and round and this creates stress.

So while I’m not implying that you’re unconscious of your values, we do often find ourselves so busy with the day to day stuff, that we find it difficult to get the time to think at these deeper levels. This next section therefore is a bit of “me” time.

So what do we mean by values and why is it relevant in the Ease the Load course. Well, very simply, we could reframe values as simply what is important to you, what motivates you, what makes you tick. Even if everything else had to change, what would have to be true in your life to make you feel on course?

These values are personal, they’re your values, not mine and not what you might feel they should be. It is important that we are conscious of them if we are to reduce stress because when we are conscious of these deeper levels, then we can ensure that the tasks we do on a day to day basis, the projects we complete, the roles we take on are helping us be “on purpose”.

Otherwise, we will never feel that good about our work – I don’t care how organised you are. You see at the task level we could save 10 minutes here, and 15 minutes there by getting a system in place, while at the same time wasting years of our life if we aren’t doing the things that are in line with our values.

Interestingly, values don’t tend to change. They are pretty much “set” in us by the time we are aged 7 or 8; after this they might be slightly adapted, but in an evolutionary not revolutionary way. Of course, ask an 8 year old to vocalise his or her values and it might be a different story.

Now the values depth works at a personal or individual level, but also at a family level, team level and indeed organisational level. So we could just as easily ask what is it that is important to us as a family, as a team, company and so on.

masksWe only have one set of values, we don’t have a set of values for our work and another for our home life and still another for our social life. So satisfaction at work is somewhat dependent on how closely do our values match against those of the organisation we work for.

I find within the typical professions I work, that they are reasonably closely aligned. However, some have said to me that they have been struggling in their mind to rationalise their personal values with the ones being demonstrated by their organisation and this becomes very difficult.

You see we aren’t talking about a Mission Statement or Values Statement that appears in picture frames on walls or found in the About Us section of corporate websites. These documents sometimes can truly reflect the values of the shared group, but sometimes they are drafted by marketing and PR groups or by an small select group in a boardroom.

For Value Statements to be meaningful, they have to be lived and breathed by all, or at least the majority within the organisation. What is it that motivates the shared team sat around the table? Identifying your organisation’s values is so important because people buy into “Why” we do what we do, not “What” we do.

And not just buy your goods and services but also come and work for you, with you and so on. If the group can understand and then communicate the why, it will have a big impact. And it’s not likely to be merely “to make a profit”, that’s more of a result for doing the work we do, not the “Why” itself.

Once a group are conscious of their values and carry on their business in line with them two things happen.

Firstly, decision-making becomes easier, because when there are difficult decisions to be made, you can go back to the set of shared values to help you, and many times the decision will become much easier.

Secondly, people begin to enjoy their work and even when there are difficult times, will still find job satisfaction. There are some techniques to help an organisation get to understand the shared values, however for this course we are interested in the personal values; what it is that’s important to you as an individual.

gandhiSo before we complete an exercise to help us explore the values section, let’s give you a few examples of how people have stated theirs.

Towards the end of his life, an American journalist asked Ghandi to explain his values or mission in 25 words or less (I’m not a big fan of the phrase mission statement, however you’ll get the idea). He said I can do it in 3: “renounce and enjoy”. Short and to the point, with the underlying principle that money and possessions are unlikely to bring real happiness.

Martin Luther King by contrast, explained his values in a 1637 word, 17 minute speech in 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. He didn’t start with the words “I have a dream”, but this was the key phrase and he then went on to outline not just his values but those of the group he represented. This was no mean feat given the variety of backgrounds in the audience including an estimated 30% of the audience being White.

This works at many different levels. Here is a family who wrote down a statement to express their values. I hasten to add it’s not my family. Some might feel that it’s a bit cheesy, and you are possibly saying, “which family would sit down and write this?”

However, I have no need to justify it; this is simply what this particular family wrote. With key words such as love, happiness, relaxation, independence, interdependence and worthwhile purposes, they felt that this phrase worked for them.

Another family succinctly wrote, “No empty chairs!”. Another way to possibly the say the same thing.

And for all you dog owners out there, here it is at a personal or individual level.

And just one final example, this time at a service level, here is a value statement for a social work department in a local authority again with an emphasis on key words such as support, protect, care, involvement and so on.

Here’s an exercise to help you express your values. Download the document on the right hand side of the screen. Here are a series of coaching questions. They’re not mine, they’re stolen.

Well if you steal them from one person it’s called plagiarism, if you steal them from lots of people it’s called research. So this is research. If you are collating this material to keep in a folder to refer back to as you embed these habits, this document would likely go in at the start.

There are a number of questions here, so for the point of this exercise you will probably want to just choose one question; any one that grabs your attention, and reflect on it in the box below. You will need to give yourself enough time to give it the justice it deserves.

coffeeOkay, which question did you choose? Many select Performance or Passion; I find very few actually select the Vision question (imagining your life is a journey) as it takes a bit of thinking and a creative mind and the seminar is probably not the right setting.

One of the first times anyone told me they had chosen it during the session was a lady who was a drama teacher (it makes sense) and she likened herself to a cup of cappuccino with the students slowly sipping the information. Her complaint was that too many demands are placed on her, which is more like gulping down the coffee with the audit and management bodies forgetting that it takes time to make another one.

The Character exercise is fascinating. This is linked with the saying that “nobody on their deathbed ever said I wished I’d spent more time at the office!” This can be a good exercise to really bring out your values.

Some might feel that there’s a problem with the Imagination option. “I know it says if I had unlimited time, resources and could not fail, but there’s a bit inside of me saying … “I do have limited time, resources and guess what … I can fail!””

Well this is true, but for the sale of the exercise, just try to set these aside and this will help the values float to the surface. In the next level up, we can start to look at limitations, but just for the moment, put these aside.

Influence is an interesting option. Inviting three people to dinner who have had an impact on you. One lady said that the three she had chosen actually hadn’t been in her life for a long duration, it’s just that they were there at important times and this played a big part on shaping who she is. So you might find some interesting thoughts coming from this option.

Now, if you haven’t already done so, write down in the little box at the end, what values does the exercise emphasise – is it respect, happiness, family, friends, spirituality, etc.? Most participants feel that thus can actually be a much harder box to complete than the first box. How do you distil what you’ve written to crystallise the values?

In the seminars, we can’t spend as much time on these questions and this level as it deserves.

This exercise requires both time and a relaxed atmosphere, and a number have said to me in the sessions that they were going to take these home and continue them over a glass of wine with some music on in the background.

One CEO recently said that it took him back 20 years to when he was at university. He said that this was possibly both the hardest and most rewarding part of his degree course.

If you do have the time, why not revisit this exercise and perhaps while relaxing during an evening, choose another question.