Determining Your Personal Values

For the past couple of blogs, I’ve been writing about the three-step process of creating a compelling personal vision. We’ve explored the first step: writing your life purpose. My last blog showed how to complete the second step: envisioning your picture of the future. This week I’ll explain the third and final part of creating a compelling person vision: determining your values.

It’s been said that the most important thing in life is to decide what’s most important, and that’s what determining your values is all about. But what is a value? In Full Steam Ahead: Unleash the Power of Vision in Your Work and Your Life, Jesse Stoner and I conclude that:

Values are deeply held beliefs that certain qualities are desirable. They define what is right or fundamentally important to each of us. They provide guidelines for our choices and activities.

Let’s face it, if your personal vision is going to have any real meaning, you have to live it. And where you live your vision is in your values, because values are what guide your behavior on a day-to-day basis.

Select Your Core Values. The first step to determining your values is to write a long list of qualities that have meaning to you. For example:

  • Truth
  • Wisdom
  • Courage
  • Recognition
  • Creativity
  • Honesty
  • Trust
  • Freedom
  • Spirituality
  • Love
  • Success
  • Humor
  • Peace
  • Security
  • Excellence
  • Learning

There are many more, but you get the idea. Once you’ve generated a long list, begin to narrow it down. Hold each value up against the others and see if you can pick out your three to five most important values. Winnowing down your list is important, because research shows that to be memorable and effective, values must be few in number—no more than five.

Define Your Values. The next step in clarifying your values is to define them. Why is this important? Because to be able to live consistently with a value, you must be able to explain what that value means to you.

For example, let’s take a value that has many meanings, like “love.”  I define this value by describing how it feels, as well as how I express it to others:

“I value love. I know I am living by this value anytime I feel loving toward myself and others, anytime I express compassion, anytime I show love to others, and anytime I receive the love of others.”

To give you a better sense of how this works, listed below are my rank-ordered values and how I define them.

Spiritual Peace

Because my mission is to serve, not to be served, spiritual peace is my highest value. I know I am living by this value:

  • Any time I realize I am a child of God and He loves me no matter what I do.
  • Any time I am grateful for my blessings.
  • Any time I pray and feel God’s unconditional love.

Health

This value has moved up in rank since I’ve had 59th anniversary of 21st birthday! I value health and know I am living by this value:

  • Any time I treat my body with love and respect.
  • Any time I exercise.
  • Any time I push my body to expand its present limits.
  • Any time I eat nutritious food.

Love

This had to be one of my values, because I’ve always said, “Love is the answer. What is the question?” I know I am living by this value:

  • Any time I feel loving towards myself and others.
  • Any time I express compassion.
  • Any time I show love to others.
  • Anytime I receive the love of others.

Integrity

My father taught me the importance of integrity. I know I am living by this value:

  • Any time I am honest with myself and others.
  • Any time I walk my talk.

Joy

Businessman and author Fred Smith said, “Real joy…is when you get in the act of forgetfulness about yourself.” This value is so important to me that I named my dog Joy! I know I am living by this value:

  • Any time I let my playful child express itself.
  • Any time I wake up feeling grateful for my blessings, the beauty around me, and the people in my life.
  • Anytime I smile, am happy, laugh, and kid.

Rank Order Your Values.  Think about which values are most important to you and write them down in that order. Listing your values in order of importance will further guide your decision making. If a situation arises where two or more values conflict, you’ll know which action to take, based on the value of highest importance.

Make Your Vision Come Alive. It’s one thing to write a personal vision statement—and another thing to put it into practice. Many years ago, I learned a wonderful lesson from Norman Vincent Peale, my coauthor on the book The Power of Ethical Management. Norman contended that we all have two selves. One is an external, task-oriented self that focuses on getting jobs done. The other is an internal, thoughtful, reflective self. The question Norman always posed was, “Which self wakes up first in the morning?” The answer, of course, is that our external, task-oriented self wakes up first. We leap out of bed, jump in the car, and race from activity to activity.

It’s hard to put our vision into practice when we’re caught in an activity rat race. What we all have to do is find a way to enter our day slowly, so we can awaken our thoughtful, reflective self first in the morning.

I’ve been working on entering my day slowly for many years.  One way I encourage my reflective self to guide me is to read my personal vision statement each morning, to remind myself of my purpose, my picture of the future, and my operating values.  This helps my behavior line up with my good intentions.

At the end of the day I like to pick up my journal and reflect on the day. What did I do that was consistent with my vision? This is an opportunity to praise myself for a job well done. What did I do that was inconsistent with my vision? This is an opportunity to redirect my behavior and possibly make amends for any errors I’ve made.

I hope this series of blogs has inspired you to create your own compelling vision. Having a personal life purpose, a compelling picture of the future, and your own clearly defined values can give you the clarity, inspiration, and motivation you need to make a difference for yourself and the world.

Your Personal Picture of the Future

There are three parts to a compelling personal vision: your life purpose, your picture of the future, and your values. In my last blog post, I detailed a four-step process to help you write your personal life purpose statement.

The second part of creating a compelling personal vision is to come up with your personal picture of the future. It’s never too early to start thinking about how you want to spend the rest of your life and how you might want to be remembered. My wife, Margie, and I each have a favorite activity to help people achieve this goal.

Fantasy Friday

One of Margie’s favorite phrases is “A goal is a dream with a deadline.” Back when she was working on her PhD in communication, she taught an extended learning course where she came up with this writing exercise to help people turn their dreams for the future into goals. She calls the exercise “My Fantasy Friday.” Here’s how it works:

Imagine it’s a Friday ten years in the future. It’s a work day but also the beginning of the weekend. Write a paragraph that answers the following questions:

  • Where are you living, and with whom?
  • What are you doing throughout the day, hour by hour? (The more details, the better.)
  • How are you feeling—intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually?

That’s it! After you’re finished and you read what you’ve written, it may surprise you.

When Margie first came up with this activity, she suggested that we write our Fantasy Friday paragraphs separately and then share them with each other. When we compared our paragraphs, we were amazed to learn we had both been dreaming of not only living near the water but also starting our own business. We had never shared either of those ideas before. Keep in mind this was before we decided to move to San Diego and start our own company!

Write Your Own Obituary

At the risk of sounding morbid, I believe it can be helpful to think of your own obituary as your picture of the future.

I first got this idea when I read about Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite. As the story goes, when Albert’s brother Ludvig died in France, the French newspaper mistakenly printed an obituary for Alfred instead of Ludvig. As a result, Alfred had the unusual experience of reading his own obituary. To his dismay, the focal point of the piece was the destruction brought about through his invention. Alfred was devastated to think that was how he would be remembered. It’s believed this incident caused Alfred to set aside the bulk of his estate to establish the Nobel Prize so that he would be remembered for peace, not for destruction.

To determine your picture of the future, I’d like to challenge you to write your own obituary. Since this is not something you can put together as quickly as you did the draft of your life purpose (see my last blog post), I suggest you spend some time on it and then share it with loved ones—not to scare them, but to get their feedback. Ask them “Is this the way you would like to remember me?”

To give you an example, the following is an obituary I wrote about myself. When I first shared it with Margie, she thought I was getting a little dark. But then she got into it and helped me write it.

“Ken Blanchard was a loving teacher and example of simple truths whose books and speeches on leadership, management, and life helped motivate himself and others to awaken to the presence of God in our lives and to realize we are here to serve, not to be served. He continually inspired, challenged, and equipped people to live, love, and lead like Jesus. He was a loving child of God, son, brother, spouse, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, friend, and colleague who strove to find a balance between success, significance, and surrender. He had a spiritual peace about him that permitted him to say “no” in a loving manner to people and projects that got him off purpose. He knew full well that B.U.S.Y. stood for Being Under Satan’s Yoke. He was a person of high energy who was able to see the positive in any event. No matter what happened, he could find a learning or message in it. Ken Blanchard was someone who trusted God’s unconditional love and believed he was the Beloved. He valued integrity, walked his talk, and was a mean and lean 185-pound golfing machine. He will be missed because wherever he went, he made the world a better place.”

Okay, I’ll admit that some of the things in my obituary are goals or hoped-for outcomes, such as being able to say “no” in a loving manner to people and projects that got me off purpose. (I still have never heard a bad idea!) As for being a 185-pound mean and lean golfing machine, that is also an ongoing aspiration. Ha!

I hope you have fun writing your obituary and also writing about your Fantasy Friday. I think you’ll find both processes interesting and perhaps even learn some truths about yourself as you ponder your goals for your future.

Next time I’ll cover the final step of creating a compelling personal vision—determining your personal values. Hope you’ll join me again!

Writing Your Personal Life Purpose

It’s so easy to get caught up in our cell phones, emails, and deadlines that we often forget to step back and look at the big picture. So, as you read this, pause and ask yourself these questions:

 

  • Why am I here?
  • What do I really want to be in the world?
  • How am I doing on that?

Just as an organization needs to have a clear purpose and sense of what business it’s in, so do individuals. Yet few people have a clear sense of their life’s purpose. How can you make good decisions about how you should use your time if you don’t know what you want to do with your life?

Here’s a simple, four-step process to help you create a good working draft of your life purpose.

Step 1: Describe Who You Are.  Think of two or three nouns or phrases that describe your unique skills or characteristics. For example, my nouns are “teacher” and “example.” You might choose different characteristics, such as artist, scientist, humorist, mechanic, writer, etc.

Step 2: Describe How You Influence Others.  Think of two or three verbs that describe how you influence the world around you. For example, my verbs are “help” and “motivate.” You might choose influence verbs such as encourage, plan, inspire, educate, etc.

Step 3: Describe Your Ideal World.  Create a picture of your ideal world. For example, in my perfect world everyone is aware of the presence of God in their lives. You might have a perfect world where people are successful in achieving their goals, or children are well cared for, or the environment is healthy.

Step 4: Put It All Together. Now, create a purpose statement by combining two of your nouns, two of your verbs, and your ideal world, and you’ll have a good start on a statement of your life’s purpose. For example, my life purpose is:

“To be a loving teacher and example of simple truths who helps and motivates myself and others to awaken to the presence of God in our lives, so we realize we are here to serve rather than to be served.” 

Someone else might have a purpose that reads:

“To be a scientist and writer who encourages and inspires people to care for the natural world and preserve a healthy environment for future generations.”

Another person might have a purpose that reads:

“To be an artist and visionary who reveals a new way of seeing and awakens people to the beauty in the world around them.”

Feel free to dream big during this process.  Don’t worry about not living up to the life purpose you envision—we all fall short of our ideal. Put your fears and insecurities aside as you write. As Nelson Mandela said:

“There is no passion to be found in playing small—in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

Determining your life purpose is the first step in a three-part process to creating a compelling personal vision. In future blogs, I’ll talk about steps two and three—creating your legacy and determining your values. Stay tuned!

 

Finding Your Significant Purpose

Maybe it’s happened to you: You have a vision of what you want to accomplish. You begin to tackle the job. Suddenly, hours have flown by and you’re astonished by what you’ve achieved.

When work is connected to what we deeply desire, we can tap into energy and creativity we don’t even know we have. But to reach that seemingly effortless productivity, it’s not enough to simply have a vision of what we want to accomplish; our work also must have a purpose that is significant to us.

Jesse Stoner and I have written extensively on the creation of an effective vision, which is comprised of three elements: a significant purpose, a picture of the future, and clear values. Today I’m going to focus on that first element, a significant purpose.

Zeroing In on Your Significant Purpose

An organization can begin to find its significant purpose by answering the question, “What business are we in?” If your first thought was, “We’re in business to make money,” you’re missing the point. As author and speaker Simon Sinek says, “Profit isn’t a purpose.”

A significant purpose is bigger than what your company does. Rather than simply explaining what you do or what products you provide, your significant purpose must answer this question:

“Why?”

Your significant purpose must clarify—from your customer’s point of view—what business you’re really in.

For example, a mattress company with a significant purpose doesn’t simply sell mattresses and make profits; it’s in the business of providing people with a good night’s rest. An insurance company with a significant purpose doesn’t simply sell policies; it’s in the business of giving customers peace of mind.

A couple of real-world examples include Tesla, whose significant purpose isn’t simply to sell cars; it’s “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” Technology Education and Design—otherwise known as TED of TED Talks fame—has a simple yet powerful significant purpose: “Spread Ideas.”

The CEO of outdoor apparel company Patagonia, Rose Marcario, beautifully articulates the concept of a significant purpose. “If you want to retain great people and have a great company, then you have to inspire the people to a greater, bigger purpose than themselves, and for us it’s saving the planet,” she says.

Patagonia’s significant purpose—saving the planet—seems to be working well. Since Marcario took the helm, the company has quadrupled its revenue and profit while setting the standard for sustainable clothing production. The company’s significant purpose overrides the traditional economic model of growth at any cost; Patagonia encourages customers to get their gear repaired rather than buy new things. The company’s purpose also guides decision making: Last year, Patagonia announced it would donate $10 million from the recent tax cuts to grassroots environmental organizations.

A Significant Purpose Must Inspire

The fact that Patagonia is succeeding financially points to a key element of a successful significant purpose: it must inspire people’s excitement and commitment. The key word here is “inspire.” If people are not fired up by your significant purpose, the words you use to describe it—no matter how lofty—won’t matter.

Too many companies make the mistake of having a purpose that merely describes their products and services or promotes a meaningless assortment of cringe-worthy platitudes. If people can’t make a heartfelt connection to the meaning behind the words, your significant purpose will be worthless. But if you work together to find an inspiring purpose, those words will fuel everything your company does.

Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance in developing a significant purpose. Back in 2004, our company helped Petco Park—the newly-built home of the San Diego Padres—to find their “why.” Rather than merely providing customer service to baseball fans, passionate employees rallied around their new significant purpose: “to create Major League memories.”

Did it make a difference? It sure did. People connected to the vision and found all kinds of creative ways to wow their customers. That summer Petco Park got 7,500 unsolicited notes and letters from fans telling stories about how they’d been blown away by the service they’d received.

Now, I call that a grand slam.

Be an Agile Leader

In business today, there’s a growing trend toward agile leadership: a focus on fast decision making, short-term goals, and the empowerment of individuals. What began as a leadership approach confined to IT departments—business units that must respond quickly to rapidly changing technology—has become a way of life for leaders generally.

Today, it’s not just IT departments that have to be on their toes—everybody in an organization must adapt quickly to change. People are recognizing that yesterday’s hierarchical structures and top-down management styles simply don’t allow for the flexibility and innovation required to compete in today’s fast-paced business environments.

That’s why the term agile leadership has expanded to include general leadership skills like acting on a shared vision, creating empowered teams, leading change, and sharing decision-making.

 

Agile Leadership at the Manager Level

Just as top-down management no longer works at the organizational level, it no longer works one-on-one, either. Agile leaders practice side-by-side leadership, partnering with their direct reports to provide the direction and support they need for their level of development on any given task.

Agile leaders are servant leaders, because they recognize that there are two aspects of servant leadership: vision and implementation. Creating a shared vision is the leadership part of servant leadership; helping people implement that vision is the servant part of servant leadership.

For many years, The Ken Blanchard Companies has been teaching SLII®, a servant leadership model that is based on the belief that leadership style should be tailored to the situation. This kind of flexibility is a key principle of agile organizations.

To become agile, SLII® leaders, managers must master three skills: goal setting, diagnosis, and matching. Goal setting involves aligning on what needs to be done, and when. SLII® managers make sure people know what they are being asked to do and what good performance looks like. Diagnosis involves determining a direct report’s development level—their competence and commitment to accomplish the goal. Matching involves aligning leadership style to a direct report’s development level. The goal of the SLII® leader is to develop direct reports so they can perform at a high level on goals without supervision.

Agile leaders trained in SLII® provide direction and support in the proper amounts to help fill in what direct reports can’t provide for themselves. When someone is new to a task, this means providing specific direction; when someone gets discouraged, it means providing coaching. As the person gains competence in the task, the leader pulls back on the amount of direction they provide as they support the person’s continued development. And when the person demonstrates self-reliance on the goal or task, the leader moves to a delegating style, giving direct reports the autonomy characteristic of people in agile organizations.

An agile leader can comfortably use a variety of leadership styles. As a leader’s direct report moves from one development level to the next on any given task, the leader’s management style changes accordingly. When leaders can comfortably use a variety of leadership styles, they have mastered the flexibility required by agile organizations.

 

A Real World Example

Let’s see how an agile leader can use SLII® to develop the empowered individuals needed in agile organizations.

Suppose you hire a 22-year-old salesperson with little actual sales experience. She has a high commitment to becoming good at sales and is curious, hopeful, and excited. Someone at this level is an enthusiastic beginner. A directing leadership style is appropriate at this stage. You need to teach your new hire everything about the sales process—from making a sales call to closing the sale—and lay out a step-by-step plan for her self-development, teaching her what experienced salespeople do and letting her practice in low risk sales situations.

Now, suppose your new hire has had a few weeks of sales training. She understands the basics of selling but is finding it more difficult than she expected. She’s not quite as excited as she was before and looks discouraged at times. At this stage, your salesperson is a disillusioned learner. What’s needed now is a coaching leadership style, which is high on both direction and support. You continue to direct and closely monitor her sales efforts, and you also engage her in two-way conversations. You provide a lot of praise and support at this stage because you want to build her confidence, restore her commitment, and encourage her initiative.

In time the young woman learns the day-to-day responsibilities of her position and has acquired some good sales skills. She still has some self-doubt and questions whether she can sell well without your help. At this stage, she is a capable but cautious performer. This is where a supporting leadership style is called for. Since her selling skills are good, she doesn’t need direction. She needs you to listen to her concerns and suggestions, and be there to support her. Encourage and praise, but rarely direct her efforts. Help her reach her own sales solutions by asking questions and encouraging risk-taking.

Eventually, your former new salesperson becomes a key player on your team. Not only has she mastered her sales tasks and skills, she’s also working successfully with some of your most challenging clients. She anticipates problems, is ready with solutions, works successfully on her own, and inspires others. At this stage, she is a self-reliant achiever. At this level of development, a delegating leadership style is best. Turn over responsibility for day-to-day decision making and problem solving; empower her and allow her to act independently. Challenge her to continue to grow and cheer her on to even higher levels of success.

Using the servant leadership skills of SLII®, leaders develop employees who are more proactive, engaged, and ultimately, self-reliant—in short, ready to meet the needs of the agile organization.