It’s hard to make values-based leadership decisions when you’re fuzzy on your values.
A series of decisions I needed to make this week drove this principle home yet again, and it reminded me of a crucial leadership question- “Are my values real, or are they aspirational?”
I first wrestled with this question years ago with the help of a leadership coach.
He had challenged a group of us to write down the values we held as most important to our leadership.
I wrote down words like “Hard working”, “Integrity” and “Well Balanced”.
Then he said, “Next to each value, write either AS, for Aspirational, or AC for Actual.” In other words, which values are being lived out today in my leadership, and which are ones I merely aspire to embrace.
I quickly placed an AC for Actual next to such values as “Hard working” and “Integrity”, and placed an AS for Aspirational next to values such as “Well balanced”.
Next, the coach said, “Look at the list of values you have described as Aspirational. If these really matter to you, you need to find a way to change these into Actual values.
I would soon learn that there is no “one size fits all” way to do this. But for me, the key was to follow these three steps:
1. Create a system
Without putting a tangible plan and system in place I learned it’s unlikely you’ll ever change an aspirational value into an actual value. You must institutional new patterns of behavior.
2. Ask for help
I’m not a fan of “accountability partners”, (that’s for another blog post one day) but I am a huge believer in asking for help from someone who has demonstrated a skill I am seeking to develop.
3. Make it measurable
It wasn’t enough for me to say, “I want to be more balanced.” I needed to say, “I want to increase my evenings at home from 2 nights per week to 4 nights per week.”
Try this exercise for yourself, and if you identify aspirational values consider how you might change them into actual values.
Because if you’re fuzzy on your values it really is hard to make values-based decisions.