Why did you accept your latest job? Was it based on high salary, promotion prospects, and location? Often we will draw up a list of what we want in a job but not everyone considers their values.
I want to explain the importance of understanding our values, and to provide some suggestions for how to assess and then take you a bit further so you can explore how well your values match with your current job and what to do about a miss-match.
Values are often not considered at all or seen as something that would be nice to understand, people do a values exercise perhaps on a personal development course but then don’t do anything with them. They are filed away and not really considered. I read that probably fewer than 10% of people have really examined their lives and the values that underpin their behaviour, so let’s get you into that 10%.
What are values?
“Values guide our every decision and, therefore our destiny’, Anthony Robbins 1991
Values make up our belief system. These are what we consider most important in our life and are reflected in what we actually do with our time. They are unique to us. Values therefore guide us to make sound life and career decisions.
Understanding our values is not a one off exercise, our values can change over time, particularly as we have significant life changes including getting older.
I’ve noticed how my values have changed, over 7 years they have moved from
Denise – Sort 1
- Using my abilities
Denise – Sort 2
How to assess values
You can look at a list found via a web search but there is a tendency to choose those we’d like to have rather than the ones that guide our life at this time. My preference is to use a Card Sort. I like card sorts as they are more tactile and it’s easy to see visually how your values compare.
Typically my clients take a pack of values cards (I sell these on my website) and put the 47 value cards under one of five headings going from strongly agree down to strongly disagree. They then work with the cards in the top category and compare every card (in this shortlisted pile) with each other card. This results in a list of values in descending order. I then create a graph to provide a visual display.
Here is page 1 of the 2 page of instructions
You know your values, now what?
Your core values are your top 5-10, the number is less important than knowing these are key to you. Once you understand these you want to see to what extent they are integrated into your life. It can be helpful to look at your wider life first before focusing on you at work.
As you identify your top values you will want to understand what these values mean to you, rather than a description in an exercise.
If work/life balance is important to you, what does it mean to you – the ability to work from home, switch off completely from work when you leave your workplace, being able to work flexibly to go to school events? Make a note against each value of why it is important to you.
For each of your core values ask yourself
- Why is this important to me? How do I define this value in the context of my life? This can be private to you, you don’t need to share with anyone.
- What do I do at the moment (activities etc.) that supports this value?
- Where am I in conflict with the value? What do I need to start doing, and more importantly stop doing?
You might like to look back over your diary and bank statements and see where you have invested your time and money. Then review your values again but this time focus on where you spend your time and money. Compare the two lists and consider your priorities against how you actually spend your time/money. If very little of your time is spent with your top values this will cause stress, and also the other way around, spending most of your time on your lowest ranking values can also be a cause of stress.
You can then see how your values are being met in the work place and if you are unhappy at work this is likely to be one of the reasons for your unhappiness.
- Imagine a key value of Family and having to travel overseas several times a year or having to work long hours and never getting home for your child’s bedtime.
- Imagine Integrity being important to you but working with a company that undertakes dodgy deals and looks to rip off the customer at every opportunity
- Imagine Recognition being important and working with an organization who only ever gives negative feedback, never praise.
In each case this mismatch is one reason for feeling unhappy. Is it possible to make some changes in your current job, If so, think about what you could do and aim to get them implemented? But it might not be possible, the 3 examples above are all from the same client, and we’re now working together on a plan for how to change.
But money is her 5th Value and is having a big influence on her career choices. It could mean she continues to make choices based on salary, and continues to not spend enough time with her family, and to stay working for a boss who never provides any recognition. Areas to be discussed in a coaching session.
We need to keep focused on our values. We may choose a job which matches our values of service and contribution but as the years go by we get promoted and stop working directly with clients. We move into a role which is focused more on strategy, meetings and procedures, so we’ve got the promotion and the status but moved away from what is core to who we are.
Are you one of the 10% who know and uses their values to guide their life? If not I encourage you to find out more. You can purchase thesecards from my website, they are also available on Amazon
I offer discounts if you want to buy in bulk – if you want to provide a copy to each team member or you are a coach and want to use with your clients please ask for special prices.