How to discover your values

There are many exercises you can do to elicit your values. Before you start you want to be clear on what values you are wanting to bring out. We have our core values. These are our fundamental beacons for the decisions we make. We also then have values for the different areas of our life. For example as a business owner you will have values on running a business, being a leader and also values for the business as its own entity. You can drill into your health values, wealth values, and family values.

There are no right or wrong values, they are all different. An important question to ask is are your values serving you, are they resourceful and are they good for you, good for those around you and good for the greater good?

An example of perhaps a value that is not necessarily resourceful could be entitlement. We see all too much in our society a mentality of entitlement. I am not making any political stand; this is my personal observation and opinion. I believe when we encourage and place value on entitlement we run the risk of creating a culture of expectation, a culture of “I deserve”. I personally believe there is far more gratification and fulfillment when we work for our rewards, rather than them handed to us.

Think about what you learnt from your family, your very first tribe. What were some consistent messages? How did you spend your time growing up? For me when I think about childhood I think of laughter, weekends of giving our time to community service, travel, encouragement to learn and so on. For some people this exercise may bring up not so happy memories. It may bring up values that you are in conflict with or want to move away from. That’s absolutely ok. Use this as an observation. One question I do ask people when exploring values is what makes you angry? This will often draw out what the person stands for.

For example I cannot stand the culture of tall poppy. It makes me furious. Who has any right to shoot someone down because that person is stepping out into success? It infuriates me. And what’s worse is at times the media supports it. Go to most countries around the world and they have no idea what it means, yet say “tall poppy syndrome” to any Australian and they know exactly what it means. It creates a culture and message of “play it safe”, “conform to the masses”. I was running a two-day leadership workshop with up and coming leaders at a large Australian company. We talked about this syndrome in some detail. Towards the end of the conversation one of the participants who was Italian asked what we were talking about. She had no idea, because it doesn’t exist in Italy.

So on the flip what do I value that is opposite to tall poppy? Support, encouragement, people creating their life.

Think about:

  • what you spend you money on
  • where you spend your time
  • who are you hanging around with
  • what is it that draws you to them
  • what legacy do you want to leave.

If you own and run a business then you can do a similar process. What do you want the business to stand for? What will you absolutely not compromise? Simon Sinek in his book Start with Why talks about a company that valued family over and above anything else. So to live that value he wanted his staff to be home by a reasonable hour to ensure they get time with their family. A work to live not live to work philosophy. So if they had not clocked off by a certain time there was penalty for working the long hours. Interesting it states that they found productivity increased.

When we create business values that we are expecting other people to live by whilst at work then it is vital the definition and rules are explored and articulated. A great exercise to do if you have a team, or even the leadership team, is to ask them what they think the value means. Firstly it allows them to be part of the process and secondly you will hear all different perspectives and together find the landing strip.

I heard at a conference a leading Australian businessman talk. He talked about the importance of values in a business and that they are over and above skill and aptitude. Higher slowly fire quickly is what one of his philosophies is. A value mismatch in the business can act as poison ivy. It spreads incessantly and impacts people and often results in impacting the bottom line in a negative way. Culture is the brand. A great culture emanates out and customers love it. The foundation of a great culture is to know what the business stands for.