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Your values are your anchor

(November 1, 2023 Newsletter)

Why define values: One of my favorite parts of my goal-setting process with my coaching clients is helping them name their core values. We do this for a few reasons:

  1. Prioritizing: having a list of core values enables them to filter important and urgent tasks

  2. Intentionality: to prevent path-of-least-resistance inertia

  3. Decision making: underneath hard decisions, there are usually two (or more) values that have come into conflict

  4. Courage: clear values can help resolve the “I’m not ready” voices in one’s head

  5. Teamwork: knowing your values can help you understand why you’re attracted to and repelled by certain individuals (don’t forget that, at best, you’re making educated guesses about theirs, unless you ask).

  6. Tracking: as life happens and my clients make progress toward their goals, their core values help them stay tethered to what’s really important to them.

Who needs this right now: Anyone who’s recently been kicked into high gear and doesn’t see an end in sight to the madness, anyone whose plans were upended in recent weeks and are recalibrating to the new paths that lie ahead, anyone who’s not sure what their next steps should be.

  • If any of the above apply, it’s time to revisit, or reconsider, your core values.

An important caveat: Let’s start by dispelling a myth – yes, your core values can change. This might happen gradually, as time and circumstances evolve. For some, big paradigm shifts shed light on what’s “really” important.

How to surface your core values: There are a few methods that you can follow…

  1. Recall recent tough decisions – assuming you’re proud of the choice you made, what was the underlying reasoning? See if you can get it down to a word.

  2. Recall recent joyful moments – what were you doing (and with whom)? Why was that important to you?

  3. Refer to your current goals – why are they important to you? This could relate to the final product itself, the beneficiaries of that final product, or the process to get there.

As you answered these questions, how many values did you list? Bold, highlight, or asterisk the 2-3 that are most fundamental to you.

Using them every day: Knowing your core values is only half the work. The other half is using them in your decision making.

  • This begins by literally making sure you remember them. It’s hardest to rely on your memory when you’re under pressure or stress, so post them somewhere visible, like by your desk or on your phone.

  • Refer back to the list at the top of this post; in each of those cases, your values can serve a filter, motivator, and yes, anchor. As such, ask yourself: what’s really important to me right now? Assuming more than one answer emerges, what’s pulling me in each direction? What would it look like to have resolved it?

We all need to feel anchored and the good news is that you can do a lot of that grounding yourself, thanks to having clearly defined and accessible core values.


The Coaching Corner

Resist the urge to respond right away

As a manager, you might be uncomfortable with silence - but sometimes that's exactly what you, and the other person, need. We feel a certain pressure to respond instantaneously, but especially in high-emotion conversations, taking a beat allows you to gather your thoughts and choose an effective response.

In David Brooks’ new book, How to Know a Person, he cites a study that demonstrates that Japanese businesspeople pause to think for eight seconds between comments. Imagine that!



Speaking of David Brooks, I haven't finished the book yet (see above in the Coaching Corner) but here's a fabulous article from last month's Atlantic magazine called "How America Got Mean" - which should be required reading, at the moment.

One little quote that summarizes the thesis of his recent writings: "We inhabit a society in which people are no longer trained in how to treat others with kindness and consideration." In short, these are actual skillsets, not just theory.


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