How many times have you heard people talk about values? Often, I bet.

Companies talk about organisational or company values. Leaders, coaches and mentors talk about personal values. You may even have done some personal development workshops that have helped you define your own values. But what does “living your values” actually mean?

I can’t tell you what your values are. That needs to come from within. There is some work we can do to help you define your values and I will write about that later. In the meantime, you could try the free on-line Values in Action assessment to help give you a start. What we can do, however, is look at a list of common values and what living those values might mean.

I have on my fridge a faded piece of A3 paper that, after sitting on a beach in Coffs Harbour a few years ago, displays the results of three days reflecting and defining my values. Even though it’s old and faded, it still has a place on my fridge for daily insight and I thought it was worth sharing ‘living values’ with you today.

After spending some time reflecting on the values that were important to me, I had the question in my mind “So what? What do I do now?” It occurred to me, in order to start living the values I just need to define a couple of specific actions for each one.   There were actions that I could easily achieve each day would give this list of values some ‘meat on the bones’ .

So, here today, I list 10 values and the actions that can help you to start living values. If you don’t identify with these values, pick the ones you do identify with and have a go at this exercise for yourself.

Ten values and the actions to start to ‘live them’

1.      Love of Learning

  • Take professional development courses.
  • Read different books, blogs and articles in order to provide different perspectives and boost creativity.
  • Seek out a mentor or coach to support you in your personal and professional growth.

 2.      Listening

  • When conversing with others, attempt to adopt their perspective and understand what angle they are coming from, what motivates and drives them.
  • Remove distractions when talking to people. Put down the phone. Turn off the computer.
  • Ask curious (and not judgmental!) questions about what you have heard in order to ensure you have understood.

 3.      Communication

  • Take control of initiating communication. Initiate conversations with people you haven’t spoken with or with who you need to speak with.
  • Spend 10 minutes with each of your team at least once a week. Be curious about what is going on for them. Seek to discover what are they proud of achieving this week and what are they finding a challenge.
  • Check in with your team to see how your message has been received and understood.

 4.      Integrity

  • Do what you will say you will do and do not commit to anything you cannot do.
  • Tell the truth and do not deceive. Encourage others to come forward with bad news and treat it with respect.
  • Seek to understand how your personal values link to the company or organisational values.

 5.      Vitality

  • Take a break during the day to exercise. Even a 30 min walk can increase energy levels.
  • Invest time in what motivates and recharges you.
  • Read Harvard Business Review articles about maintaining optimal performance over the long term and managing energy levels rather than time.

 6.      Financial Security

  • Do not impulse buy. Apply the 24-hour rule.
  • Seek professional financial advice.
  • Invest securely.

 7.      Respect

  • Be on time for meetings. It shows others that you respect their time.
  • Be courteous.
  • Tell your team what they need to hear and trust that they are mature enough to accept the good and bad news.

 8.      Friendship

  • Be there for people when you can and when they need you to be.
  • Communicate.
  • Listen and ask questions.

 9.      Humour

  • Laugh and smile.
  • Attempt to find appropriate humour in difficult situations at work.
  • Don’t take things (including yourself) too seriously.

 10.    Forgiveness

  • Forgive.
  • Say sorry.
  • Let go of anger.

Now, you may not agree with the values above or the actions that I have listed underneath them, and that’s okay. I respect your right and opinion to have whatever values you choose to have. What I am suggesting here is that having small, achievable actions underneath each value will help you understand that value a little better and help you live and model them on a daily basis.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re still not sure what your values are a simple Google search revealed these to me; authenticity, achievement, balance, compassion, challenge, determination, fairness, fun, justice, loyalty, recognition, security, success, status and wisdom. Perhaps there is something in that list that resonates for you.

So, what I would like you to do is ….

Think about your personal values. What is is that is important to you and what do you believe to be true? What do you want to be known for? Take some time to come up with a few actions that you think help you live and model those values. What are the actions that will show others what values are important to you?

Once you have your list of actions, start living them. Monitor how they are working for you, and modify them as required. Remember, if it is a true value for you, it should not be difficult to live it.

Once you have had a go at this exercise, I would love to hear about how it went for you. Feel free to leave your insights on your experience in the comments section below.

Do you know someone who has trouble ‘living their values’? Perhaps you could share this article with them and coach them through the activity in order to help them. Again, I’d love to hear about how that went for you.

If you would like to discuss this concept with me then feel free to get in contact using the contact details at the Campbell Leadership Solutions website.

Finally, thanks for reading and leading.

Further reading

Leading Through Values: Linking Company Culture to Business Strategy by Michael Henderson, Dougal Thomson and Shar Henderson