Values Clarification Exercise
Values are the deep-seated, personal standards that influence every aspect of our lives. Examples include integrity, privacy, family, honesty, harmony, and loyalty.
Great leaders are crystal clear on their values and use their values guide their behaviors and decisions. With a clear and consistent set of values, or guiding principles, leaders demonstrate consistently in their behavior and others understand where they are coming from and why.
In The Leadership Challenge: How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations, James Kouzes and Barry Posner say: “To become a credible leader, you first have to comprehend the deeply held beliefs … that drive you. You have to authentically communicate your beliefs in ways that uniquely represent who you are.”
The author’s research demonstrated that the leaders with the most credibility are clear on their values, communicate their values to others, and lead in a way that is consistent with these values.
There are two steps to values clarification:
- Becoming clear on your most important values
- Communicating your values to others.
In the Leadership Challenge, the authors offer a number of exercises a leader can do to help with step #1.
Readers are instructed to write a tribute to themselves, list lessons from leaders that they admire, and write a leadership credo.
In our executive coaching work, we also use a “values sort” exercise to clarify values (thanks to my colleague Mary Hershey for this exercise).
The object is to determine your top 7 values in rank order with #1 being the most important.
- Start by crossing off the items that are Not Important to you.
- Then go through the list again, circling as many of the items that are Very Important to you.
- The remainder of the list would essentially be things that are Important but not Very Important.
- Review the Very Important items. Consider whether there is a value missing that matters a lot to you and hasn’t been listed; add it. Then from this group, select 7 that are Most Important.
- Then rank order these 7 Most Important values. Number one is the Most Important value.
Once you have your top 7 values, consider answering the following questions to determine how well your values are represented in your leadership:
- Are your employees aware of your top values? If not, share them and invite them to share their own.
- Are these values demonstrated in your day-to-day behavior? Are you being true to your values, or situational?