The value of values… in practice

Consultant Alan Williams and coach Steve Payne discuss their new book my31Practices

The ‘V word’ is being used with increased frequency in all aspects of life – but what do values actually mean for individuals and in business?

The topic of values is gaining increasing attention on a number of levels: organisational, personal, community, societal and political.

Core values are qualities that represent deeply held beliefs. They reflect what is important to us, what motivates us, and act as guiding principles – a behavioural and decision-making compass.

Richard Barrett, founder and chairman of the Barrett Values Centre, and his colleagues differentiate between positive values and potentially limiting values. Honesty, trust and accountability are positive values, whereas blame, revenge and manipulation are potentially limiting. Positive values are described as virtues and we can draw on them for strength. Potentially limiting values are fear based, evoked when concern for ourselves gets in the way.

In day-to-day life, values often exist implicitly, under the radar of awareness. The way people behave is a representation of their values and creates their ‘being’.  Awareness of your values is a starting point to self-insight and understanding.

You are shaped by what you care about.Where you have a choice, you will choose to do things that enable you to survive and thrive in any situation. You can use core values to good effect to provide:

  • A reference for decision-making.
  • Clarity and increased awareness about individual behaviours (self and others).
  • A basis for reflection and enquiry.
  • Stories for reinforcement.

The result of taking this approach is that you will behave more consistently – viewed from within or from the outside – in an environment that is more clear and less ambiguous. It will help you with ‘how’ you feel, think and behave as much, if not more than, with ‘what’ you do. Being aware is a good first step, but no more than that. It is not enough on its own. How do you make sure that you are consistently behaving in line with your values? This is the key question and is also a challenge, especially in such a busy, dynamic world with constant demands on your time and what you do. The internet and social media have brought a fundamental change with a level of transparency beyond anything you could have imagined ten or 15 years ago. As a direct result, authenticity is, and will continue to be, increasingly important.

Before, it was perhaps possible for people to put on a ‘front’ to tell the story they wanted others to believe, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell a story that is far from the reality. If you don’t behave as if your core values matter, then others will not believe they are, in fact, your values – and this can spread far and wide in an instant.

More importantly, you run the risk of not living in alignment with your authentic self and the associated consequences. Arguably, this risk is greater in the workplace because of a perceived pressure to give the ‘right’ impression to colleagues. Imagine the positive impact if organisations instilled a values-based approach to recruitment and selection, performance review and general employee engagement. 


Values and my31Practices

The purpose of my31Practices is to enable you to reconnect with what is important to you, and practise these core values on a daily basis. The my31Practices approach champions authenticity and supports this. It improves your sense of well-being and has a positive impact on self-fulfilment congruence and performance. With the book, the starting point is to identify your top five core values (myValues). Think of these five values as a ‘set’ rather than five separate things, which represents what is really important to you – your essence.

There are different ways to do this: you can complete online questionnaires, or start with a long list of values and reduce this down, or you could have a session with a life coach.

When you have identified your five myValues, the next step is to define what each of them means. The same word could mean different things to different people. Just knowing or being able to state your core values is not sufficient on its own unless you understand how these values can guide your decisions and how they can influence your daily behaviour. my31Practices provides a framework to help you practice behaviours directly linked to your core values every day.

Personal values show up over time in the way people behave. Sometimes it may be difficult to ‘see’ your values when they are so much a part of your everyday world and life.

They are sometimes easier to recognise at specific, more extreme moments. Think about your peak moments (happiest and/or most successful). What was going on and what values were ‘in play’ at that time? Explore low moments (frustration, misery, failure). What values were being ‘trampled on’ at that time? What circumstances led to the peak moments or the low moments? What does this say to you about your values?

As always, actions speak louder than words. The inaugural World Values Day is on 20 October and there are many values- based activities from 1-20 October listed on the World Values Day website. It is a way to provide a central focus for people and organisations interested in the topic of values and as a focal point for activity. What action will you take?