How values – And being savvy about them – Will enhance your career

Focusing on your deeply-held values can be extremely beneficial at every stage in your career. Understanding your core professional values and how they directly influence you in a working context will help you to be yourself with far more skill. Values ground and anchor you. When life and work engage your values strongly, and you can express them congruently, you’ll be more fulfilled. But when there’s tension and conflict around them, the opposite happens.

If you’re not clear about how to identify and talk about values, they’ll remain open to interpretation, either accurately or inaccurately, by others. And because actions usually speak much louder than words, a sharp ability to succinctly, explicitly communicate your core personal values will stand you in good stead. This is especially true at key decision points, or when you find yourself in a tough, values-conflict situation where emotions are running high. Here’s how knowing your values – and being able to express them clearly and accurately – will enhance your career.

Values are deeply held abstract ideas

Your values are the deeply held commitments you make to certain ideals. Values are abstract ideas, not set in stone but very personal. They can be fused with your emotions and are usually a group or set of qualities that you run your life by, whether you fully realise it or not. Each value holds a cluster of beliefs about how the world could, should or ought to be. These values and related beliefs are strongly held and fairly stable, but can change over time.

When your values are strongly engaged you will be prepared to spend time and money on a project, team or initiative, and you’ll remain committed as long as those values are engaged. They motivate you, which is why so many of us feel insulted and hurt when our values are threatened. You might flare up in defensive outrage when someone violates a value you hold dear, even if the individual concerned meant no harm.

Values are neutral and individual

Your personal values, the ideals that you hold tightly, are your own, individual to everyone. As such values are generalised ideals, broad in their application. The qualities in themselves are neutral, neither right nor wrong. They are not golden ethical standard that you must aspire to. They’re not even moral blueprints.

The values you choose will not necessarily have any bearing at all on your moral character or ethical standards. Although living with integrity may be one of your highest values, it’s how you relate to these values, the way you express them, that reveals your character. It’s the application of your interpretation that matters. The way you play them out is the moral standpoint.

Values form a backbone for decision making and reputational success

Values play a powerful role in career decision making, management and leadership. They’re involved in the creation of strategies, in organisational effectiveness and in personal authenticity. Working with values and applying them skillfully brings greater personal presence and clarity, and broader reputational success. Values successfully applied in practice, over time, provide more of what you want to be known for and contribute to the career legacy you wish to leave.

Values congruence leads to better decision making

Being adept at explaining what matters to you delivers an advantage, giving you a stronger professional presence and helping you to confidently say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to new career openings. It may even positively influence the career opportunities that come your way.

Greater congruence in explaining your values, complete with examples, naturally raises your confidence, makes it easier to ask for the things you need, give clear reasons and hold informed conversations and negotiations, all based on self-knowledge. And if you ever have to compromise any of your values, which will happen sometimes, you’ll have a clear idea about where the wriggle room is and how far you are – or are not – prepared to go, creating vital boundary lines.

Values help you cut through complexity

Values can guide behaviours and act as anchors when working through complex issues. Calibrating your current values and being sure of them is a crucial part of handling yourself professionally and positively, despite the ambiguity that’s so often a feature of organisations. Acknowledging your own values has far reaching effects on your professional capabilities, helping you to resiliently handle pressures and conflicting priorities with confidence and ease.

When greater awareness of values leads to new breakthroughs

What if a value has been forgotten, eclipsed or stuck? An illuminating discussion can shift it back into the light. At the Listening Partnership we often see this new awareness leading to real breakthroughs. Acknowledging the importance of a particular value, giving yourself permission to re-emphasise it and move forwards based on that acceptance, can be refreshing and liberating, giving you a potent cathartic effect in an area where you were stuck or had very little agency.

The same applies to a value you no longer hold so dear. We help you reassess it, let go of it, and introduce an alternative value. Maybe it is a quality that inspires you, something you can purposefully develop and apply to life, incorporating it into your existing repertoire of values. Focusing on a new, directly relevant value often comes with a powerful release of energy, which you can harness to powerful effect.

On the other hand, upholding a value in a self-righteous or strident way can cause problems. You might have a blind spot. You could be reading the situation wrongly. Whatever’s happening, overplaying a value and getting negative feedback is a clear signal you need to open yourself up to that feedback. It helps, under these circumstances, to figure out how to express yourself with greater skill, find new strategies to honour that value, and align yourself more effectively. Doing this will help you avoid career-limiting attitudes and behaviours.

How values narratives feed conversational dexterity

A genuine understanding of how core values work for you, and how they relate to your context, delivers a distinct advantage when engaging in different conversations at work. Being clear and succinct about what’s important speeds up communication and focuses conversations.

Knowing your values will keep you steadier and more grounded in challenging situations, where emotions run high because of strongly felt views. It’ll put you in a better strategic position thanks to the vantage point it provides. You will be able to see what’s happening more clearly and draw upon your values as anchors. It might still be tricky, but your ability to express yourself quickly and clearly will come to the fore. Knowing yourself well, understanding what’s important to you and realising everyone’s values are different can enable you to more carefully and confidently handle yourself and others.

Are your values working hard for you?

If you would like to gain a clear career advantage by getting a real handle on your values, developing greater skills and applying them more effectively, do get in touch.