By Matt Russell
When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier. — Roy E. Disney
Have you ever set your alarm clock for the morning only to realize that it was completely useless? Again and again you hit snooze because well, the button was within reach.
Why is it that we so often find it difficult to follow through on our expectations? We do not do what we expected to do, but rather, what was convenient in the moment.
From something as small as setting our alarm clock at night to something as serious being involved in our children’s lives, our decisions matter; they are a reflection of us.
It can be so easy to go with the crowd, to compromise who we are for the sake of self-preservation. We want to preserve our status, our friendships, our opportunities, but why do we do this?
There should be no difference between who we are (our values) and what we do (our decisions); however, when the pressure is on and the moment comes — just like hitting snooze on the alarm clock — we put off our values for another time and do what is convenient in the moment.
Living a Different Way
We do this because we are living without a clear sense of our values. We do not resolve in advance how we will act when things get hard.
You see, the decision to wake up in the morning does not come in the morning, it comes the night before. In the same way, our decision to act in a way that is consistent with our values does not come when our values are challenged, but before.
My wife and I started a social business called All of Us Matter that uses creativity and friendship to help equip people with practical ways to fight human trafficking. As you can imagine, starting a business is a very demanding and time-consuming process.
Also, I have a very taxing full-time job outside the home that requires a lot of my mental energy. Not to mention we have three young kids who are bursting for attention when I walk in the door. I have to admit, when I get home each day, I am tired.
It would be convenient to just sit down, relax, and take the rest of the night off. But there is a problem with this. That is not consistent with the person I want to be. I want to engage with my family on the things that are important to them and build them up. This is a value I uphold regardless of my circumstances — it is a decision I made in advance.
As a result, I use a “cue” to remind myself of my values when things get hard. When I arrive at home at the end of a long day and the feeling of fatigue comes, I say to myself “invest in my family daily.” The cue reminds me of my decision to be values-driven — to act in a way that is consistent with the person I want to be.
5 Tips on Values-Driven Leadership
As leaders we face many situations that are not clear cut. This is true both in our personal and professional lives. Unless we develop a clear sense of our values and decide in advance how we will act in these situations, we will continue to fail to be the person we want to be. I hope you enjoy these practical tips on becoming a values-driven leader:
- Ask your important questions. Knowing your values begins by asking what is important to you. Things like “What type of person do I want to be?,” “How do I want to respond in these situations?”, “What impression does this give to others?”
- Identify your lines in the sand. None of us are perfect. Becoming values-driven is not about being perfect, it is about taking intentional steps to grow each day. This is done by identifying an area or two that must change now; it is our line in the sand. It is saying I may not be able to change everything, but I will start with this.
- Decide in advance. This is where success happens. Before we are challenged by a situation, we decide in advance how we will respond. This gives us a clear sense of our values and gives us the victory before we are even in the “battle.”
- Give yourself a que. When our values are challenged and things are hard, we can repeat a phrase that will remind us how we decided to respond in a given situation. Keep this simple and meaningful. Things like “I am a person of integrity”, or “I never embarrass others.”
- Have a “piggy bank” Becoming values-driven is not a zero-sum game. We will all have successes and failures along the way. It is important to think of this process like putting coins in a “piggy bank.” Whenever we do something good, we “put a coin in” and when we don’t “we take a coin out” but as long as the balance continues to grow, we are on the right track.