“Do you have a few minutes?” he said as he poked his head into my office. “Sure,” I responded as I put my pen down and walked around my desk. He continued, “As I’ve considered how to position our solution, I’ve realized how it reflects our values and how we tie each of our pillars into our service message.” He proceeded to walk me through one of our offerings as seen through the lens of our four core values. Drop the mic.
Our World of Me-Too’s
in a world of me-too’s, also ran’s, and been there done that’s, what really makes a person or company different? We live in a world addicted to the status quo and fixated on copy-cat offerings constantly promising more value for less money in a debilitating race to the bottom.
Our mass production structures reinforce this model in a battle for scale which, upon achievement, casts in concrete a monolithic pyramid of grabbing hands that survive by sustaining the system. We see this in every major industry and it gives our hybrid, free market/entitlement-driven society a brittleness that tends to break with upheaval. Ultimately, we all get comfortable with the status quo until something makes it no longer tenable and we proceed to rail against its strictures.
Looking at the comfort-driven pillars of our own society, what makes anything stand out? With COVID-19, we’ve had a chance to see some of the inertia-driven structures of our world broken as our economy ground to a halt. Patterns were forcibly changed by an overwhelming external force. We’ve had to step out of the comfort of status quo and consider other options. Necessity has been the mother of change if not invention.
Great leaps are made in these moments. Leaps of innovation. Leaps of adjustment. Leaps of accommodation. Leaps of understanding. Leaps of perspective. Leaps of necessity. As we consider our place within the current leap, it’s worth discussing the things that can, and should, withstand the upheaval and provide much-needed steadiness. Revisiting our purpose within such times in valuable. Renewing our commitment to the values we espouse, and living them, becomes even more critical – as individuals and within the organizations in which we work.
With that in mind, it’s easy to understand why I was delighted to hear someone on our team connect the dots of our company values with the services we provide. A great moment, for any leader, is to have people on his or her team demonstrating the internalization of mission, vision, or values in word, thought, or action. It seems obvious, but how often do we really make a meaningful connection between our values and the products and services we buy/sell or the choices we make?
Years ago, I intentionally aligned our company’s values with my personal values. The guiding principles make decision making, strategy setting, and emergency response far simpler by giving us a framework within which to structure our attitudes toward and responses to events inside and outside of our organization. They also signal to those with whom we work what we view as most important as we approach our interactions. Knowing what you stand for helps you stand apart.
I walk through my values below as an example of how values can play a part in how you live your life personally and professionally.
Follow the Signs
What is the way? How do you find it? There are indicators all around us, signs, that provide guidance on our direction. In the noise and distractions, we frequently miss them but they are still there. More a whisper than a billboard, we rarely come across burning bush moments. However, when we stop, look, and listen, they often appear. For me, stepping off of the main road to the one less traveled is often the most difficult sign to follow but has almost always provided the most interesting and rewarding experiences. How do find them? Start by looking.
Leave It Better Than You Found It
Is the world made better by virtue of your presence? Who benefits from associating with you? When we move through the world, things should be made better by our passing. The clients we serve, the friends and family we love, the projects we undertake, the peers with whom we interact, should find our presence uplifting. We are called to make a difference and we are gifted every, single, day with with the chance to meet that calling. Our difference doesn’t have to be grand, ripples will do. Will you be missed when you’re gone?
Be A Good Steward
What are your gifts? Are they used as a force for good? Are you sharing them fully and joyfully? Our gifts are on loan. We have them for a while and then they are given back with our passing. They are not given to us be buried, hoarded, or used only for ourselves. Our gifts may be intellectual, financial, spiritual, artful, insightful, or any of a thousand other combinations. They are meant to be invested in the world around us, maximized as much as possible, and allowed to bear fruit in the best of all possible ways. To be a good steward is to bring your gifts with good intentions and the aspiration for goodness – for yourself and those around you. Are you doing everything you possibly can with your gifts?
Show Up Every Day
When you are present, are you really present? Do you bring your “A” game every day? Do you elevate those around you by virtue of your efforts? Many people don’t show up: in the big or the small moments, when things get tough, when it’s inconvenient, or when they don’t feel like it. It is easy not to show up. We have so many other priorities, distractions, or excuses. When someone shows up, it’s a big deal. Show up ready to play. Show up to support those who need you. Show up when it likely won’t be noticed. Show up when it matters most. Courage is showing up in spite of the dangers. Grit is showing up when it’s painfully difficult. Commitment is showing up when you don’t feel like it. Devotion is showing up when no one notices. Loyalty is showing up when someone needs you. Show up, every day and be the exception.
What do you stand for? It doesn’t have to be original, particularly creative, or overly grand. It does have to be yours. For it to mean anything, you have to own it and live it. Otherwise, you are just another me-too in a world full of people blowing with the wind.
The patterns are shifting but your values can provide true north navigational support. Change is upon us once again yet that too is nothing new. The comfort of yesterday’s status quo is gone. How will you redesign your own patterns? What will you write for the next chapter of your journey? Look to your values. Look to the values of those around you. Look to the values of those with whom you do business. Old comfort and convenience may be gone but there is great possibility in what lies before us.
External forces will continue to act upon us. Our current upheaval will pass but will eventually return in some new form. These great movements must happen in order for us to progress and evolve. However, our values must remain constant and help us endure necessary change. We must continue to stand for something that matters and hold our ground when all else changes. Don’t let comfort or change rob you of your compass. Don’t let others’ shifting sense of self impinge on what matters most to you. Values matter.