Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Be true to your values.

Be true to your values.

A value is an enduring belief that a particular mode of conduct is preferable to others that a person acts on by preference. Our values are at the core of who we are. They influence our judgments, our choices and our actions. They are not created by natural law but are culturally imposed. Values silently give direction to the decisions you make every moment of every day.

In a complex world, clear values simplify and make choices easier. If you’ve defined the key behaviors and capabilities you need to succeed, then you can develop a list of rational practical values that will cause these to be alive and well in your life. This forces you to pull stuff you already know out of you so you can see it and begin to use it in a more conscious way. One way to describe your values is by defining "what you won't do." This is a quick way of looking at the important areas that are sacred, without having to write all the rules of what to do ... which can be too control oriented and voluminous.

Here I’m differentiating between two kinds of values - rational, practical values, and historical, big question values (like religious beliefs). The practical values serve as a set you can use right away. Other bigger questions are constantly in doubt or unresolved so you’ll always have to keep working on them. And that’s OK. At least you have the practical stuff under control to see you through most of the day-to-day situations you’ll face.

As an example: When Ed Harness was President of Procter & Gamble, he described the values he believed to be essential to his success as "always acting with honesty, integrity, fairness, and a respect and a concern for others.”

A clear and publicly expressed value statement creates a constructive tension in your life, heightening awareness of gaps between aspirations and current practice, and providing a stimulus to narrow these gaps. In that way, it helps drive a culture of continuous improvement. A strong values framework causes you to search for solutions to problems that are consistent with your values, questioning and testing alternatives, and inventing change when necessary.

“Laws tell you what you can do. Values inspire in you what you should do. It’s a leader’s job to inspire in us those values.” – Dov Seidman

“Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account.” - John W. Gardner

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