A couple of years ago, I went to a print shop to get a quotation for a large order. When I entered the shop, the assistant was busy with another customer. I took the opportunity to look around. One of the things that caught my eye was the motto printed on the wall – it was the motto of the business and its four core values. The values were:
· People first
· Client focus
· Be positive
When it was my turn, I laid out the job I wanted to be done. I asked a few questions but was met with what could be described best as a total lack of enthusiasm. I was assured however that my order would be ready in time for my deadline. As I left the store, I thought to myself, “Well, so much about being positive.” A few days later I found out that my order was delayed because of miscommunication but was assured the deadline would be met – It wasn’t, and I came back to the store to pick it up three days late and there was not even an attempt to apologize. As I left, once again my eyes caught the core values and it was a perfect 0 over 4 with my experience.
While it would be easy to pick on this business, if we’re being honest, this is much more common than we would like to admit. We have all been told that knowing one’s core values are key both as a business and an individual. Indeed, this is sage advice.
Our core values are like an anchor – they ground us.
They can inform us about what is essential and important in our lives and in our organizations. They guide us and help us when we have important decisions to make.
However, core values must be operationalized into behaviors to make them real, otherwise they risk just being words on the wall and nothing else. There is no surprise in this. Intuitively we know we need to have core values and the temptation is to go through the motions and choose four to five great looking and sounding values. Check the box.
It’s essential however, that we take each value and describe how they would like to look like in our day-to-day behaviors. Let’s make an example. Honesty is a very common core value for many people and organizations. What does it mean? Maybe I will only say things about people that I would say to their face. There, that is concrete and gives a clear example of how it guides us.
I encourage you to write down your core values and then consider what they mean in your life then write three behaviors and encapsulate that value that someone could point to and see that value in action.
After you have completed writing those behaviors, now ask if your work is aligned with those values as expressed in behaviors. Research shows that those who work in jobs that do not align with their values have higher levels of burnout.
For this week’s EQ workout, I prepared a set of questions to help you explore if you are living in sync with your values.
You may also like this YouTube video I recently recorded which explores how to improve your communication skills in the workplace.