Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Staying True to Your Core Values

I recently did an exercise where someone asked me to list my values.  I've done this with a list and without it.  For me, it is easier to start with a list and then whittle it down.  Basically I end up with wanting to contribute, be recognized for my exceptional work, and be a good and honest person.  These are my core values.

We all have them.  They are those values that guide our actions and decisions without our really even thinking about them.  It is usually only when we are somehow asked to violate them that we realize how important they are to us.

As children, it might be when all of our "friends" are picking on the kid in the class who is "different" and something inside of us wants to protect that person.

As teenagers, it might be when our friends are pressuring us to drink, do drugs, or have sex and we decide that pizza and movies on a Friday night at home might not be the worst thing.

In college, it might be when we really want to take that Art History course and our parents really want us to take the business or pre-law course.

At work it might be when we see a co-worker treated poorly, see a co-worker abuse a rule, or are asked to do something by our boss "to get ahead" that just doesn't seem right.

What we do in those moments forever shapes us.  We all want to say that we always do the right thing, and always would.  But we are not perfect, nor are those around us.

So think about what your core values are.  Write them down.  Where is the line you won't cross?  What would you do if you were asked to cross it?  Really think about what is important to you and how you will protect it.

If you are lucky enough, you work for and with people you trust.  You may argue with them and they may frustrate you at times, but you trust them to respect and honor your core values.  If you have that in this day and age, make sure you honor it.  Protect them and their values the way you would your own.

If you are unlucky, you didn't have to think very hard about what are your core values because they jumped out at you from much reflection on a day to day basis when you feel they are being trampled on.

I must admit here, I've been on both sides of this dilemma.  I tend to withdraw instinctively when I work for someone or with someone I don't trust.  But here's the catch - that violates one of my core values...to contribute.

I have learned, that to be true to my core values, I have to respect the person for whom I work.  That makes me fulfilled and it keeps me engaged.  In the past, I have worked in a job I didn't even really like because I respected my boss.  Probably not the best career model to follow, but I like where it has taken me.  I have had the opportunity to work for some strong, caring, intelligent women who mentored me and performed their job with true integrity.  Do I make lots of money?  No.  Do I lead a large division of people?  No.  But, I know that I contribute, I am recognized for my exceptional work, and I am a good and honest person.  And for me, that is everything.

So I ask you again...what are your core values?  How do you stay true to them?