When the pandemic first hit, like many others, I tried to convince myself if I simply hunkered down, it would all pass in a couple months. Yet as time went on, I realized – as you likely did too! – that at some point we had transitioned from a sprint to a marathon, and the uncertain times were sticking around. While there are some positive signs we are slowly emerging from the pandemic, the ripple effect it has wreaked on businesses, communities, and citizens around the world will be felt for months and years to come. And that’s just one of the crises we weathered!
As we redefine “normal” and begin operating in a deeply changed world, leaders at all levels are now presented with a two-pronged challenge – 1. How do we help our teams remain engaged and successful, and 2. How do we simultaneously stay grounded enough to meet our own individual needs?
While undeniably challenging, the current situation also provides opportunities for us to engage our workforce on a more meaningful – even vulnerable – level. It may feel uncomfortable and can be difficult at first, but it’s important to create an environment where our team members can bring their whole selves to work. As Jeremy wrote in his post “What Your Employees Really Want Right Now” last July, it’s not only about providing a safe and supportive work environment for our team members but also making sure they know we care about them and will do everything we can to support them as they continue to do everything they can to support us and the customers we serve.
As leaders, we can create this environment – even virtually! – by authentically living our values. That requires us to know what our values are, though, doesn’t it? The best leaders are values literate. They understand how their values shape their behaviors and how they are distinct from their personalities and skills. In From Values to Action, author Harry Hansen-Kraemer Jr. shares a model to help us lead authentically and connect deeply with our teams and colleagues. Hansen-Kraemer outlines the following four principles of values-based leadership for us:
- Self-Reflection: The ability to reflect and identify what you stand for, what your values are, and what matters most
- Balance & Perspective: The ability to see situations from multiple perspectives, including different viewpoints, to gain a holistic understanding
- True Self-Confidence: The ability to accept yourself as you are, recognizing your strengths and your weaknesses, while focusing on continuous improvement
- Genuine Humility: The ability to never forget who you are, to appreciate the value of each person in the organization, and to treat everyone respectfully
Values-based leaders carve out time and space to make choices that are in alignment with their values. Values-based leadership, then, requires pausing for these moments of self-reflection. This process not only keeps leaders honest with themselves but also models for all employees that it is often important to step away from the chaos to put things in perspective before acting. As a result, values-based leadership regularly generates meaningful business outcomes and delivers better results.
It’s precisely this sense of perspective that values-based leaders use to deliver the very best for their businesses and team members. Honing this ability to see things from multiple views is no small task though. It requires leaders to build and rely on teams of trusted advisors across their internal and external networks to counsel them. On a practical level, this also means that leaders need to visibly champion Diversity, Equity & Inclusion efforts within their organization and industries. Positioning diversity as a design principle rather than some intangible outcome ensures that leaders are surrounded by diverse individuals whose experiences enable them to navigate business challenges more thoughtfully without falling prey to unknown blind spots.
Ultimately, leading from values allows leaders to cultivate a stronger sense of purpose. Especially now when many of us are physically disconnected from one another, this commitment to a shared purpose can help sustain us through periods of instability and change. And for leaders at all levels, it simply starts with a few moments of self-reflection to clearly articulate one’s core values. Just remember, initiating a self-reflective practice doesn’t require a wholesale strategic overhaul or grandiose planning. It can start with quite simple but meaningful actions.
At Plus Delta, for example, we have embraced this practice of mindfulness and self-reflection as a core tenet of ours by starting every internal team meeting with a brief centering meditation before tackling our collective work. Individually, our consultants also start and/or end their days with purposeful intent. This not only makes us better consultants for our clients but also makes us better partners, family members, friends, and community leaders. And I promise, if we can do it, you and your employees and leaders can too!
So, pause for a moment. Take a breath. And ask yourself, “What are my strategic intentions this year? Which of my core values will enable me to achieve these objectives?”
As you consider your own journey to becoming a values-based leader, consider if you’d benefit from having a seasoned coach by your side to help create a self-reflective plan. Or maybe you want to introduce values-based leadership principles across your entire organization. Whatever your objective, we welcome the opportunity to guide you through leading from your values and being grounded with a stronger sense of purpose to create greater engagement. Just give me a call at 310.589.4600 or email me today to review your specific situation and determine your best path forward.