What are your values?

Words by Samantha Marks
07 November, 2019

Let’s talk values! You know, the things you mention whenever you interview for a new job and want to assure the hiring manager that yours align to theirs; the things you hear about when you get that new job and are being inducted into the organisation (hopefully that’s not the only time you hear about them while you’re there…); the things we know we have, but might not have ever fully articulated them.

To be honest, if you would have asked me a few months ago what my values are, I would have rambled on, listing at least ten different beliefs that I’ve held important throughout my life. I probably would have shared about my family, friendships, my faith, my drive for excellence, my passion for creativity and helping others. There are so many different things I hold important, and ultimately when the list is so long, it doesn’t necessarily help me when I’m faced with difficult situations, challenges or decisions.

A few of us had the opportunity to hear Brene Brown speak when she was in Melbourne. (If you’ve read any of her writing before, then you probably already know how incredible she is. Plus, she’s hilarious!). She walked us through a reflection exercise on our values, which we then did as an entire Thankyou team.

And now, we thought we’d share it with you, knowing it can help grow your self-awareness and confidence as you navigate all that life holds. It can also bring teams together, strengthen culture and create a sense of being known amongst our peers.

It really can be quite simple. Brene shared a list of values, which is a free resource on her website. Once you have the list in front of you, you can follow these steps:

Step One - Take ten minutes (or however long you need – I took a few weeks, and I’m still not 100% confident on the ones I’ve picked) to circle the words that jump out at you as potential values. The goal is to narrow it down to two values, however that can be quite daunting when there are so many to choose from, so without circling every single word on the page, feel free to circle away.

Step Two - To help you take your list and distil it down to two core values, you can ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this define me?
  • Is this who I am at my best?
  • Is this a filter that I use to make tough decisions?

Wait a second, you might be thinking, why just two values? Well more often than not, your two values will be at the core of any others. For example, a few of my circled values were contribution, making a difference, service, and giving back.

When I really thought about it, the way I interact with others, the way I spend my time and my energy both at work and outside of work is because I want to serve others. I want to make a difference for other people, and as I asked myself the questions for each of those values, I kept coming back to service.

If you keep asking yourself the questions, keep going deeper and deeper, you will probably come down to about two values that play into all the other values that are important to you.

Step Three – If you want to keep going deeper, ask yourself these questions too:

  • What are three behaviours that support your value?
  • What are three slippery behaviours (actions you might be tempted to do even though they do not align to your values) that are outside your value and how do you feel physiologically in those behaviours?
  • What’s an example of a time when you were fully living into this value? And how did you feel?

Step Four – Share with your team/your partner/your family/your friends! When we did this exercise as a whole organisation, after our time of personal reflection split up into departments and got groups three. Three isn’t really a magic number; we just wanted to make sure we had the chance to share within the time we had. Ideally, we’d eventually love to share as a whole organisation.

As you share with the group, you can use these questions to guide the conversation:

  • Tell us about the two values you’ve chosen (or the ones you are currently trying to choose from)? Why did you choose them?
  • Tell us about the two values you’ve chosen (or ones you are currently trying to choose from)? Why did you choose them?
  • What is one way the team can support you in your values?

This step is huge. I know my team fairly well, but hearing them actually speak about their values, brought their actions to life. I now know more about what motivates them and what I can do to build into their values instead of acting counter to them, and it gives language to crucial conversations when our values might be in conflict with one another.

Step Five – last one, and we added this one in as a bonus. Gratitude is important to us at Thankyou, you might have guessed. We wanted to take the opportunity to encourage and thank those in our small group we shared with particularly for the ways we have seen them live out their values. It not only reinforces the fact that we listened to them and heard what they said, but also demonstrates that we see them and actually value their values. Maybe someone’s value is community, and you’ve seen them intentionally build strong relationships and check in when things might be tough. Why not thank them and mention how it impacts you? Whether it’s at work, at home, with your friends or family, your words and encouragement are so powerful. They make a difference and can help strengthen someone else’s values and the decisions they make.

That’s it! Five steps. Two values.

Take the time to reflect and think through your values. Life can be tough but knowing your values can help shift and realign your focus to what really matters. Brene puts it as “if we are clear about the values that guide us in our efforts to show up and be seen, we will always be able to find the light.” (pg 217 Dare to lead).

Go find the light.