There is a famous French story, “The Little Prince,” that tells the story about a fox that becomes the best friend of a young prince. When the fox must leave the prince forever, he offers to tell the prince the world’s most wonderful secret if the prince meets certain conditions. The little prince agrees, does what is expected and then asks to be told the most wonderful secret. The fox responded by saying, “Only that which is invisible is essential.”
The most valuable things in life cannot be seen with the naked eye. Some of these are love, friendship, honor, integrity, trust, respect, hope, compassion, and values. Today, let’s talk about values and why values are so important to who we are and what we do (the decisions we make and actions we take). The best place to start is with the definition of values. In my mind, values are those critical beliefs and principles that guide us as we take action. They are non-negotiable principles that guide our everyday lives. Sometimes our personal set of values is called our “moral compass”. Additionally, values certainly give meaning to our lives. Individuals have values whether they be good or bad. Hopefully, your own personal values are decent and good. Some people have values that lead to evil and disaster. Nations, businesses, and organizations of all types have values.
Values also help formulate decisions that are made by individuals, national leaders, and businesses. Roy E. Disney once said that, “It’s not hard to make decisions, once you know what your values are. Roy Disney was the partner and co-founder, along with his younger brother Walt Disney, of Walt Disney Productions, now known as The Walt Disney Company.
The Walt Disney Company is the epitome of a values-driven organization. Even though the Walt Disney Company is a retail giant, its primary product is happiness. The company’s “Disney courtesy” concept is based on four key values: Safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency. Every one of their performance expectations and standards are based on these encompassing beliefs. By the way, intense ongoing training is a major factor for the Walt Disney Company to be able to achieve and maintain its consistent execution and commitment to these all-encompassing four values.
Customer service is a lifestyle for all Disney employees. Employees are trained and expected to think, walk, talk and breathe safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency. While on duty, Disney employees are constantly “performing” for their guests and committed to bringing happiness to each and every one.
Our very own firm has values that we identify as being good and which lead to providing the best possible services for our clients. The intent is also for our values to promote the well-being and growth of each individual team member. Our clients and team member should be able to see our company’s values in action every day. Again, these are guiding principles that should not be compromised. Honesty, respect, dedication, caring, follow-through, and personal commitment to excellence are some of the values that should be evident in everything we do for our clients and each other. Go back and take a look at the HMC Vision Statement for other values that should guide our relationships with clients and our teammates. I encourage us all to do this from time to time as a refresher on what should guide us in our professional relationships each day.
From a personal standpoint, there are some individuals I have known who get confused as to what their values actually are. They talk a good game, but yet their actions do not fully support what they say their values are. There is an evident disconnect between what they say and what they do. We all probably know persons who fall into this category.
From time to time, we have to stop and evaluate whether our very own decisions and actions actually reflect what we say our values are. Defining and analyzing our values is not just an academic exercise that should take place every few years. “Clarifying our values is the essential first step toward a richer, fuller, more productive life,” according to Carl Rogers, an American psychologist and one of the founding fathers of psychotherapy research.
If you want to examine and clarify your values, you could ask yourself the following six questions:
- What do I believe in?
- In what guiding principles can I become constructively obsessed?
- What governs my life?
- What do I stand for?
- What puts meaning into my life?
- What personal qualities are important for my life to be complete?
Just a side note: A good place to do this particular exercise is on the beach watching the tide roll in and out!
This is not a quick and dirty exercise. Analyzing our values is not something that can be done quickly, but requires significant thought. The often-quoted Chinese philosopher, Confucius, wrote: “The rule of life is to be found within yourself. Ask yourself constantly, ‘What is the right thing to do?’ Beware of doing that which you are likely, sooner or later, to repent of having done.”
By the way, when you are in a position of having to “repent”, do it quickly and sincerely. That is another value that is essential to a richer and more enjoyable life: Being able to admit mistakes and correcting them.
Have you taken the time to reflect on your personal values lately? Are your daily actions showing a commitment to those values? How do you feel when your actions conflict with your personal values?
“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave ‘em all over everything you do.”