Think about a fulfilling experience in your life. What comes to mind? Recall what it felt like to move through that experience. What made it special? What made it rewarding?
Now think about an unfulfilling experience. What made it challenging? What was unsatisfactory about it? What prevented that experience from being fulfilling?
Consider the role values played, whether yours or someone else's. Which values were present? Which values were absent? How did values surface and to what degree?
What Are Values?
Values reveal what's important to you. They shape how you present yourself to the world and how you react to the values that present themselves to you. Values can either connect you to or disconnect you from another person.
Every interaction compels you to embrace values, whether consciously or unconsciously. How you respond to this calling can honour or dismiss your values.
Think about how important, if at all, values such as wealth, authenticity, trust, power, teamwork, honesty and structure are to you. Which of these or other values resonate with you?
Experience of Values
Your experiences are shaped by the presence or absence of values. How your values are expressed determines your level of fulfillment or dissatisfaction.
Have you noticed that with some people there's an ease to the way in which you interact and relate with them, and with others it can feel disjointed? You are very likely connecting more easily and closely with people whose values align with yours.
In your career, how often do you think about your professional values? How often do you think about how your values align with the values of your work environment?
Similar Values Expressed Differently
Even when your values align with those of your organization you might find that the way they are expressed feels disconnected from the way you express the same values. For example, a value of wealth can be presented differently between two people. Goals around the dollar figure or material possessions related to wealth might be light years apart. Even the method through which wealth is attained might be expressed in completely opposite ways.
The way a value is delivered can create unity or disconnection, turmoil or peace, growth or stagnation. Values have no power until individuals live them out, either in healthy or unhealthy ways.
Assessing Your Values
A values assessment helps you to optimize your career path for fulfillment and organizational alignment. Consider the following four steps when conducting a values assessment:
1. Identify Your Values
What's important in your career? What's important in your work environment? What must be present in order for you to feel fulfilled in your organization? Create a list in order of importance.
2. Align Your Values
What are your organization's values? To what degree are they present and at what levels? How do your team's values present themselves? Aligning your values to the values of your team and organization can mean the difference between career fulfillment and career strain.
3. Live Your Values
Once you have identified your values, embrace them. Live them. Breathe them. This means honouring and expressing your values on a daily basis. Yes, it can be challenging to ensure that you never compromise your values in a work environment, particularly when your organization's values are not fully aligned with yours. However, career fulfillment will elude you if you don't live your values.
4. Revisit Your Values
Depending on the stage of your career, your priorities might change and so might your values. Routine self-reflection of your values ensures that you are aligned and purposeful in your work environment. Refresh your list.
Values at Work
Acknowledging and aligning professional values requires engagement at all levels of an organization. If you are a leader, you can enhance your leadership presence and engage your teams more fully by creating an organization that clearly defines and embraces values. If you are a team member, be clear about what's important to you and articulate your values to leadership.
Start by conducting an individual values assessment and then come together as a team to share the results. Find common ground.
Living your values is foundational to charting a career path that is fulfilling. Organizations that embrace and celebrate individual employee values, and fully live their corporate values, know what engaged, productive and harmonious teams look like.