Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour

Ep. #75 Values: The North Star of Your Career

November 14, 2023 Jean Balfour Season 2 Episode 75
Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour
Ep. #75 Values: The North Star of Your Career
Show Notes Transcript

Have you ever taken a moment to reflect on your career values? It's a practice that often gets overlooked amid the hustle of our daily lives. However, these values serve as the underlying motivation for our actions and reactions, influencing our experiences both professionally and personally. 

In this podcast, Jean Balfour explores the importance of recognizing and embracing our values, offering practical insights and tools to help you identify and harmonize with them. 

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Hi everyone and welcome to Making Sense of Work. If I was to ask you to list your values, would you be able to do this? Our values are often driving our actions and reactions in work and life, yet we don't often take time to think about them. to name them or to evaluate whether we're living our life and our work in alignment with them. In the podcast today, I'm going to share with you why I believe that knowing our values really matters and share a lot of practical guidance and tools on how to help you identify them and how to work with them. There's also a downloadable worksheet on our website which will help you to identify your values and there's a link in the bio for this. Before we start, ratings and reviews make a really big impact in helping others to find a podcast and I'd really love it if you could take a minute to go to your favorite podcast app and help me spread the word by rating or reviewing whatever you feel comfortable with. I'm going to start with a personal story today. One of the most miserable times in my career was when I was in a role where there was a really big values clash. I left a job I really enjoyed to go and join my first consultancy organization. I'd come to a point in my career where I knew I didn't want to stay in senior leadership and I knew that I wanted to coach and teach to move closer to my passion and I think my strengths and moving out of that leadership role was actually really hard. I had a really strong values alignment with the organization I worked in then. I loved the people I worked with, some of whom are close friends to this day and maybe listening to this podcast. I loved the work we did and I loved the difference we made in people's lives. But I was tired of being in a senior leadership role, running an organization at Because it took me away from what I believe I'm best at, which is working closely with people to help them learn and grow. And so I left. I got a job. I was very happy to get a job in a consultancy. It was a small consultancy and it was still working. In a similar field, consulting to the organizations I'd just left. And it was doing the work I do today. So the work itself was really strongly aligned to what I believe is the work that I'm here to do. However, and this was a really big however, the organization was led in a way that was strongly against my values. Leaders in the organization commonly lied to people, committed to acceptable workloads, and then told people to do more. There was a massive amount of people talking behind people's backs. There was a lot of backstabbing and negative behavior. And there was also some behavior between consultants and some of our clients that I believe violated ethical codes. So I was really hugely compromised on one of my core values, which is a value of integrity. And it was so powerful that I cried every day when I was driving to work. And it was so difficult because here I was. Doing the type of work I loved and yet being really unhappy. So after a year, I knew I couldn't carry on and I needed to leave. And thankfully, I found the way then to setting up my own business, which is where I am now. But as I was leaving, there was one final values violation. My manager actually competed against me in my new role, uh, for a piece of work, which we had agreed she wouldn't do. And it's one of those visceral moments, even decades later, I can tell you where I was when I discovered. That she had done that and that sense of lack of respect and honesty also values of mine. So it was a real lesson for me in how we can be doing a job we love and still be struggling with it because our values hold so much importance. information for us, some data, if you like. Thankfully, I ended up going from there and starting the business, and the rest is history. But, it's just so stark. Really, I loved that work, and I could not work there. And I really want to think today about helping you think about how can you distill your values so that you can also work out, maybe if you're in a challenging situation or you've been in one, how much of value is playing a part in that. And I wonder whether you have a story like this, where you've loved work and found the values clashed, or maybe the other way around, you hated the work, but you loved the work. the values your boss embodied or the organization espoused. Values matter so much to us in our lives and especially in our working lives. I think they're like our north star because I think they hold what matters to us most and they help us to see what is best. And the North Star or a North Star is a navigation tool. We can become aware of them and look for ways to integrate them in our daily lives. Help those values give us direction. They help us live a life that's aligned with our purpose. And they give us meaning and they really guide us towards what's best. And values are also like an early warning system. Often when something is not going to plan, or we're struggling with something, it can be a misalignment with our values. Russ Harris, who wrote The Happiness Trap, describes values as our heart's deepest desires for how you want to behave and treat others. For me, values are also about what matters in how I express myself. My own values, autonomy, growth, achievement, trust, connection, and creativity, have become clearer to me over the time. Really in most recent years, it's only been that creativity has emerged. It's was there really on, I look back on it, I don't think I would have labeled it, but as I've. Become more experienced. I see how much creativity plays a part in my work and how much it matters to me and that when I'm doing work, which it doesn't express the value of creativity, I actually can be more drained. But when I have creativity there, it's more energizing. So in our working lives, we want our actions. and our expression of work to be as aligned with our values as possible. Values, as I've said, help us connect with that meaning. They point us to what's meaningful and where we are aligned with our heart and our soul. Values help us to be motivated and inspired, and they create positive reinforcement for us about who we are and how we are in the world. Steve Hayes, who's the founder of ACT, which is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Which holds values at a core part of its processes, says that one of the greatest sources of psychological distress is losing touch with the values that are truly meaningful for us. It is that important. It's not being connected to or aligned with our values can impact how well we are. So, as I said, in our lives, we want to ensure we're living up to the values we have, and we want some alignment with that, and that's the same in organizational life. Those of you who remember Enron will remember how deep the corruption was and the lack of care there that brought the organization down, but it had a great set of values, which included respect and honesty. Definitely not lived by the leadership. So we need to define our values and then we need to see that we are living by them, that we're living by what we espouse. Values are also something that are in the here and now, so they're not a goal to be achieved. So for example, achievement is one of my values. I value that sense and feeling of achieving something, but achievement in and of itself isn't a destination. It's not a place to go. Achievement will look different and have different expressions at different times. When I was younger, it was about being in a senior leadership role. Now it's much more about how I can help others learn and grow. And at different times, our values will be more present than others. For example, I have a value about autonomy. I'm lucky that in most of my life, I have the ability to be autonomous. And so while I know it's there and it's important, I'm not actually thinking about it a lot. However, if I was to be in a situation with less autonomy, for me, this might be difficult. So I see it, I often have to complete on boarding for a corporation or fill in forms for a legal process and you can't have much autonomy in those processes and I suddenly notice how much I want to do it my way. I don't want to be told how to do it. I can see my autonomy in a real way. I hope I've established for you that values do really matter and there are many ways that we can identify them and a number of tools that you can use to support this and I'm going to share a couple of these now. The first is that you can Work with a list of values, and this will be in the download on our website. And you can try and get that list down to between 5 and 10. So my personal list is 6. And you can work with the list in two ways. You can print it out, cut the values out, and then you can go through them. Take the ones out that you know don't resonate with you at all, and then go through the remaining ones. See if there are more that don't resonate, and then see if you can get it down to 15. Then you can begin to ask yourself questions like this value, why is this an important value for me? How willing am I to change things in my life to ensure that I'm living by this value? If I wasn't living my life in alignment with this value, how much would it impact my quality and experience of life? Having answered these questions and other questions that you will have, is it in my top five? So you can begin to just keep weeding it out. Another thing you can do is very simple. You can just do color coding. Take the sheet of values, red not important, amber somewhat important, green for those that are really at the heart of how you want to live your life. Another exercise you can do is work with a series of questions and these might include What brings me the most joy and fulfillment in life? What are my most important achievements? Why are these important? When do I feel most in flow? When am I most energized? What qualities or traits do I admire in others? What triggers me to feeling annoyed or angry and when that happens, which value might be being violated? When do I stand up for what I believe in? And what are the areas of my life I'm not willing to compromise? Final suggestion is that you can write your own eulogy. So imagine you're saying goodbye to yourself at the end of a life well lived and think about what you would say. What would you say about the best of you, the actions you took, the way you behaved, the qualities you demonstrated that you're most proud of? What is your legacy? What are the moments that you are feeling that you are happy to see? How did you treat others? And how did you treat yourself? Once you've identified your values, you can look for ways to create better alignment with them because as I said, we want to live and work as aligned with them as possible. One way to do this is just to write them down or have them on pieces of paper and have them close to hand. And then when something's not going right or you're feeling a bit off kilter, have a look at your values and see whether one of them is not helping or could help you. So for example, if I'm feeling particularly tired, I know that if I do something related to creativity, it can bring my energy back. I can write five minutes, or create a social media post, or do some course design work, or water my plants, because they're an expression of creativity. Another way is to pick one of your values and as you go into your day, consider how you act in alignment with that value. So for me, let's take creativity again. When I'm doing my admin tasks and I find an expression of creativity, how can I do that? Well, I can put some music on, I can light a candle, I can glance out the window and look at the clouds. Or if I think about another value of my integrity, I can think, Okay, today, how am I being true to myself, first and foremost, and then how am I being true to others? How am I being honest with the people around me? Finally, it is really important, I think, to be aware of possible values conflicts, like the one I mentioned in my story. When we have a values conflict, we can become aware of it and then we can see what choices we have. I mean, one choice is just simply to be aware of it and live with it. So we may be in a job or an organization where there are some values that don't align with ours, but we may love our boss or love our team and feel that we can live with that conflict. We don't have to make changes. We can see. Where the values are or make and think about how we can live with them. But we can also ask the question of how can I change this? Do I want to change it? And if so, how can I change it? How can I move towards being more aligned with my values? And really, sometimes we can't make those changes and just naming it, naming it and saying This is a values clash can bring about some peace. It's really about being honest about how we're feeling about it and what's happening for us. And then we can choose how to deal with it and what our next actions are. Our values really are a part of our guiding principles in our lives. And I hope I've helped you to see that. I really encourage you to take some time to work with them, find ways to ensure you're lived by them and It's part of enjoying a life well lived and particularly a working life well lived.