Values are, as the name suggests, things that we cherish, value, hold dear to our hearts. Things like beauty, justice, ambition, trust, love. They can run deep and touch the core of what it means to be human. They are one of the puzzle pieces of purpose, of a bigger WHY, such as why are we here? They help point us towards the WHAT, such as what are we going to do about it?!
As individuals, we have our own personal values and they guide what we gravitate towards. They also clearly point us to what we’re willing to fight for if somebody steps on them. That’s often the first time people really discover what the issues they deeply care about are, through negative experiences that touch their core. Then they want to do something about it, not just to overcome adversity for themselves, but also to ensure nobody else will have to suffer in a similar way.
Some people then start or join movements or organisations with the explicit purpose of fostering change, driven by their values. Charities are perfect examples for this, with stories and personal biographies to inspire, to rally people around a cause, contributing to positive change in a specific area.
Organisations have values too, and ideally the values of each individual involved in its broader ecosystem would resonate. It’s very powerful when that clicks, it keeps people going through some of the rough patches. Of course, these deep values sound lovely, and when we talk about them, we get warm fuzzy feelings. But how can we make sure we actually live them? How can we make them a part of a conscious way of working in our daily practice? How can we tap into them to keep igniting the flame?
Values can be lived out loud! Here are some ways to do this:
1. Talk about your values
Show what you care about and what guides you. Is it a sense of justice or inclusion? To bring happiness back? Support well-being? Tackle ambition? In all likelihood, your values might already show up in the stories you tell within your teams, your organisations, your stories of origin. Stories have power, make them memorable and invite others in your community to share their own stories back.
2. Bring your values into your decision-making
Working towards change in complex environments with limited resources can feel daunting. The good news: You don’t need to see and understand the full picture to start making a difference. Let your core values guide you. With every decision, ask yourself: Does this lead me towards or away from my values – or is it neutral? Then go with what is towards (or at the very least, neutral). And watch change unfold.
3. Find a common base in conflicts
You can have the most beautiful and inspiring values – and yet, there are going to be disagreements. Either in the ‘what’, or in the ‘how’. Values can provide crucial first principles to tie things to. Remind each other of the bigger picture. Most people care and do their best. That helps to put things into perspective.
4. Rebound quicker from setbacks
When your values get crushed, it hurts. If your values run deep, it hurts more deeply. You tried something with all the right intentions – and it didn’t work. Or you might have hoped for common sense or reason, and none came forward. Clarity is good, and you probably learned something. Standing up for what you believe in is still valid, it helps strengthen the cause. You might feel like you are all alone in your attempts, but by keeping at it, you might have just inspired someone (and you might never know). Attempts are valid, and values lived out loud are powerful examples. Form circles of support with people who care about similar things and let your values sustain you.
5. Build a bigger ecosystem
The old world of zero-sum-thinking is on its way out. There is plenty of scope and willingness for people and organisations to connect and collaborate across traditional lines of organisation or industry. Shared values can help to build trust and alignment among actors who together manage to create something far bigger and more game-changing than the sum of its parts.
About Christine Locher
Christine Locher works in coaching, consulting and leadership development. Her focus is on helping people and organisations discover their values and living them out loud for positive change. She combines a high ‘BS-o-meter’ with deep compassion. This helps clients to go deep and to then make things practical. Her book Values-based: Career and Life Decisions that Make Sense is available on Amazon. Christine is a Fellow of the RSA and the Learning and Performance Institute. She completed the first ICF accredited coaching training in Germany. Her academic background is in psychology and communication and systemic change. She lives in London. Find out more at https://christinelocher.me/ or connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn