Do Your Values Align with Your Work?
About 25 years ago, my company landed one of our first consulting jobs. To do the work, we collaborated with several other agencies. At some point along the way, one woman declared the work we had just produced was “good enough for government.”
I was completely taken aback by her comment. Stunned, in fact.
That phrase bothered me then — and now. It goes against many of my core values: integrity, hard work and delivering the highest quality product possible.
Whether a client is a corporation, government agency or small business, my staff and I give it our all. Every time. Never do we aim for “good enough.” We typically go above and beyond to make a client happy!
Now that’s in line with my values. And while my values help define who I am, they also strongly shape my company’s culture.
What about you? What are some of your core values? Knowing what matters most to you will help you recognize how your values show up in your work. And where you might need to make some adjustments.
Power Challenge 1: Show Your Values in Your Work
As you work, you deliver proposals, reports, product solutions, ideas and analyses, marketing leads, closed sales and so on. That’s the “WHAT” part of your work.
Then there’s the “HOW,” your approach to what you do. How exactly do you carry out your work and your many interactions with colleagues, customers and vendors? Perhaps with drive, care or commitment.
And, of course, there’s “WHO” you are as you do these things. In developing the best version of yourself, it’s critical to tune into the values most meaningful to you.
These values show up in WHAT you produce or deliver, HOW you approach the process, and WHO you are in your day-to-day activities.
For example, let’s say your core values include persistence, creativity and accuracy. How might you express these values in your work deliverables? You might …
- Remain engaged, even when you hit roadblocks. You wouldn’t need frequent pep talks from your supervisor to stay motivated. (That’s persistence!)
- Propose different approaches to a problem. (There’s creativity!)
- Review your work with an attention to detail to minimize errors. (Hello, accuracy!)
And what would those values look like if expressed in your interactions with other people? You might …
- Ask your colleagues for what you need, being persistent but not nagging.
- Volunteer to brainstorm (apply your creativity) with a colleague who’s struggling to plan a themed office party.
- Prepare your meeting notes to ensure you have accurate data, just in case someone asks.
These are just examples. Think about your own values. How do you incorporate them into your work (and life)? You might be surprised at all the ways you express your values without giving it a second thought! Because they’re so woven into the fiber of your being. They are there even if you may not even notice them at first.
“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave them all over everything you do.” – Elvis Presley
Core values aren’t something you express occasionally or only when you feel like it. They should be consistent and present all the time. The good news is, when your values truly align with who you are (or want to be), it’s easy to bring them into your work.
Power Challenge 2: Model Your Company’s Values
Every company has values whether explicitly stated or not. You can often find values in their mission statement or incorporated into their brand identity.
Leaders and employees are expected to embrace and embody those company values in their work. Customers, suppliers and investors expect to experience those values when interacting with the company’s services, products and people.
For example, some companies emphasize values such as profitability and operational efficiency. Others seek to make a strong profit while also serving a social mission and giving back in some way. Some companies want to be known for their outstanding care of their customers, while others might strive to become a “best place to work” for their employees. And there are yet other companies who seek to set a standard for mind-blowing, leading-edge innovation.
If you’re a supervisor, it’s especially important to model the company’s values in your work and interactions. Your employees will be observing you and will generally follow your lead. If you don’t model the company’s values, your employees probably won’t, either. And, they may develop cynicism that you or the company don’t “walk the talk.”
Related: How Did Your Team Get That Attitude?
If you’re an employee, modeling the company values can play a supportive role in your career growth. Many medium-sized and large companies include their company values in the performance appraisal process.
Don’t wait for the week of your performance evaluation to kick into gear! Find ways to support and express the company values in everything you do.
Modeling company values demonstrates your support and commitment. You’re on board, invested in helping the company’s success. When the company’s values align with yours, you feel connected and genuine in your commitment.
Power Challenge 3: Can’t Align? Make a Change
What should you do if you don’t agree with your company’s values? Or you find the company says one thing, but does another?
When values don’t align, or they are inconsistently expressed, you may feel uncomfortable in some way. You may not even know quite how to describe what feels “off” to you. You may feel that you don’t quite “fit” at the company.
Or, you may know exactly what’s wrong. For example, suppose you’re a salesperson who seeks to meet client needs and build long-term relationships. However, your company prioritizes short-term, high sales volume over all else. Or, you value innovation, and your company won’t budge from their “old” ways of doing things. Differences like these can make your work experience heavy and unfulfilling.
If your company’s values and yours are really misaligned, it may be time to consider changing companies. But don’t just jump from the frying pan into the fire! Make an intentional decision after researching your options.
“Peace of mind comes when your life is in harmony with true principles and values and in no other way.” – Stephen R. Covey
Try to learn about a company’s values ahead of time. Don’t rely only on its website. Read about the company in the news, and check out their social media channels. Use professional networking sites such as LinkedIn to find people who work in the company. Ask them about what it’s like to work there and what values are expressed in the day-to-day operations.
Over time, people change, companies change, and even some of your values may change. Tune in to — and honor — your values. Rather than staying locked into a mismatched situation, welcome new opportunities to join a company whose values align with yours.
Your Values Matter
Twenty-five years ago (and counting), someone used a phrase that felt like a punch in the gut. My reaction was so visceral I can still recall it.
What about you? Do you really know which values are important to you — and how they show up in your work life? Pay attention to things people say or do around you. Your reaction can be a strong signal that something either aligns with your values — or doesn’t.
Your true values are undeniable. Don’t hide from them because they make you … YOU! When you tune into what matters most, you bring the best (and most authentic) version of yourself to work every day.
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Carla inspires leaders and team members — and provides real-world tips to become the best version of themselves that they can be. Contact her today.