Core Values: The Real Elephant In The (Corporate) Room
At a corporate workshop in Jersey City a few months ago, I simply asked this question: What’s important to you? Some people were taken aback, some were able to answer right away and others just really wanted to grab their free lunch and get out of there as quickly as possible. Here were some of the responses that are now posted by my desk as a reminder of how much further we need to go: balance, purpose, kindness, happiness, peace, optimism, personal development, gratitude, passion, empathy and growth. Participants had to write down what they did in a typical weekday from morning to evening on one side of their paper, and adjacent, they had to write down their top core values (what’s important to them). The million-dollar question was: How many of your daily activities reflect your core values?
The Busyness Addiction
The workshop started 30 minutes behind, mainly because people were still coming in and out to get their free lunches, and one of the participants said, “Well, I have a meeting at 1 p.m., so I may have to leave in, like, 30 minutes.” I mentioned I would take note of this, and we would start soon. In the day-to-day, you start believing that the busier you are, the more successful you are. But how true is that? In the elevator after my workshop, I overheard two people on that busy brag-a-thon. You know, the one that goes something like this:
“Yeah, who has the time, man?”
“I barely have time to eat my lunch.”
“Yesterday I didn’t eat anything until dinner!”
“I had to come into work last weekend, so I couldn’t even workout.”
You may have noticed this at work meetings or just in casual conversation with people. Catching up with a good friend of mine who works for a large fashion house, she said busyness is “the one addiction that we condone, and we reward it, too, with promotions and awards.” I couldn’t help but nod and add that it is also fueled by another addiction we condone: our addiction to our devices.
The Core Values That Matter
In his book The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle looks at high-performing teams, from the Navy Seals to Google. Here’s what he finds they have in common:
2. Safety (psychological)
Google, the king of analyzing the heck out of anything, looked at its highest performing teams and found that the teams that outperformed their peers had one top thing in common: psychological safety. Makes sense. If the environment (on/offline) in which you work doesn’t provide a space where you can feel free to share if you’ve failed, need help, need support or just need to vent about a project, then how can you grow as a team and, on a macro level, a company?
Crisis As The Magnifying Glass
There’s always going to be a crisis — small, medium, large, extra-large — even when things are seemingly going smoothly, because we are human. Yes, sometimes life gets messy and can’t be tucked just out of the frame of your webcam. Remember the guy on BBC Live and how his two kids busted in on him? And who could forget his wife doing that epic floor slide to get them out of there? That just seems like a day-to-day occurrence now for those of us used to working from home. The thing with crises is they shine a light on what’s really going on — what has always been going on. It’s almost like a volcano that lies dormant, and the crisis helps the eruption along.
A Good Time To Grow
For every moment we are faced with some kind of crisis, we can choose to avoid it, survive it or grow from it. Imagine this scenario: There’s a toxic employee on the loose. Avoidance mode would be literally avoiding this person as much as possible. Survival mode would be speaking to them when absolutely necessary. Growth mode would be approaching this person in a nonthreatening way and having a conversation with them. True story, by the way. You’ll be happy to hear I went through each phase and ended with growth mode.
That same friend argued that now more than ever, people are willing to explore their personal growth — things like fear, anxiety and worry. I tend to agree, given that I had been asked to do five online workshops on fear. It reminded me of a startup I had worked with in India. The employees actually set aside time to work just on the growth of the company because growth was something important to all of the employees.
Creating Time For What’s Important
A crisis becomes a crisis because you haven’t really prepared for it. You can, though, for the next one. Do you know what your company’s core values are? Do they align with your own? Let’s go back to the workshop participant who had to leave early for a meeting. He ended up staying until the very end of the workshop — way past 1 p.m. In fact, when I asked him if he wanted to leave, he said, “Oh no, it’s OK. I’ll just postpone the meeting. I’m the CEO, after all.” At the end of the workshop, he came up to me and said, “You really made me think about what is actually important in my life.”
I wonder if he starting applying what he learned in the workshop: bringing balance to his work life, which was one of his top values. Perhaps we can all learn a little something from him. And more importantly, with his leadership buy-in, every single one of his employees can start circling a lot more on their daily schedules that reflect their core values.
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