"Imagine making decisions based on what you most deeply believe is the right way to live. Getting accepted and rewarded for being who you really are. Experiencing non-stop energy from constant confirmation of your true self. Feeling certain in the most uncertain of times. Displaying rock-solid consistency between your intentions and your actions—even under pressure, especially under pressure. This is what it means to live your values. Achieve all of this at work and both you and your company will be a whole lot richer for it."
Stan Slap, consultant to companies of all sizes on engagement and culture, shows us in his book Bury My Heart at Conference Room B: The Unbeatable Impact of Truly Committed Managers that living your values is the key to a fulfilled life and success at work. Managers are generally required to bury their values for those of the company, but Stan argues that this is a short-sighted approach that leads to disengagement and people giving less than their best.
The Big Idea
Become a Leader
"Leadership happens to you as soon as you understand your own values and understand how to enroll others in supporting them. Instead of waiting for a leader you can believe in, try this: Become a leader you can believe in. The sooner you start to practice leadership, the sooner your personal values will start to be realized. So what exactly are you waiting for?"
The first step for a manager who wants to live his values and inspire others to follow them is to figure out what those values are. Stan takes us through an exercise to determine what our top three values are and what those mean for us.
The next step is to share this with others, which is where leadership comes in.
Unlike management which is all about instructing staff on how to work better and harder and ensuring they do so, leadership, as per Stan, is inspiring them to live better. And leaders do this primarily for selfish reasons: they want to live and work based on their own values and believe the world would be better off following these values too. So they work hard to inspire others to support them and their values so that they can live the life they want.
Define the Better Place
"In leader-speak, the Better Place is the ‘vision.’ Because their vision is driven by true belief, leaders really can see that Better Place… Seeing it yourself is not enough; your people have to see it too. Leaders create vivid descriptions of this Better Place. They have to describe it so you can really see it. "
How do leaders inspire others to live their values? One way is by vividly describing their vision—the “Better Place” where all can live by these values and be better off. To better inspire this transition, they contrast this with equally vivid descriptions of the “Bitter Place,” which is meant to represent the negative current state.
This method can be applied for teams and organizations, and even for one’s personal life. The key is to know your values, really understand how you want to change the world to be aligned with them, and then paint this picture for those who you want to come along.
And they’ll be okay with it being your values and not theirs as long as the picture you paint—and the Better Place—makes their lives better too.
Cherish and Protect Their Trust
"Make amends for any small violations of trust. Your people will appear to shrug off these violations as no big thing, but the employee culture is listening now and it wants acknowledgment that you know you were wrong."
For anyone to follow you to that Better Place, they need to trust you—trust in your values and trust that you will live by them and your vision through thick and thin. It is therefore vital for leaders to cherish and protect that trust. Be consistent. Watch what you promise. Don’t make commitments—even small ones—to keep things moving if you’re unsure you’ll be able to keep them. Your followers are watching and judging to see if they can trust you and the values you claim to represent.
If you make a mistake—and it is okay for leaders to do so—own up to it and apologize. Do this quickly and honestly, be authentic, and show that you’ve learned from your mistake and care. It’s okay for leaders to be impassioned and emotional—Stan even argues that this helps their cause—but it is not okay for them to be dishonest, disrespectful, or inconsistent.
Stan himself paints a very vivid picture of a “Better Work Place” where managers and staff can safely bring their best selves to work, be true to their values at work, and be respected and rewarded for this. He shows how managers need to first make a stand and become leaders who refuse to live by anything but their values for this to become a reality.
Stan helps managers do this with exercises to determine what their values are and roadmaps on how to apply them and their vision to their teams, organizations, and even personal lives. He also shares many inspiring stories of companies of all sizes who actually work this way to demonstrate that this is not only possible, but that it makes a huge impact on morale and the bottom line.
Add to the above Stan’s wry humor, evident throughout his book, and this is a Better Place you’ll want to read and revisit often.
Do you know your top three values? How can you work and live more in line with them?