My line in the sand
I'm going to cut straight to the chase today — what are your values?
Stop reading right now (well, not right now...but at the end of this sentence) and write down your values. Once you've completed reading this article, read through your list and ask yourself if you could've gone deeper.
Now that we've got that out of the way, [FIRST NAME GOES HERE], how are you?
How was your week?
Mine was wonderful — I went camping with my children which taught me how much I enjoy the outdoors when someone else is pitching the tent and changing the nappies. We're also having a really productive end to the year — the planets are aligning on our annual strategy so much so that we have to stop and ensure that someone isn't orchestrating it all.
We regrouped with our team this morning as we do every Monday morning — the meeting was great, but as I walked away I smiled because I wasn't stressed even though I'm quite busy at the moment. We openly communicated what each person needed from others, and the goals each person had for the week — putting it out there so we can each contribute to helping one another meet those goals.
I smiled because I work with a small group of people whose values align with mine.
These people won't be in my life forever — maybe they will — but whilst they are, it's my job to ensure that the time we have together is positive. And, in part, it’s their job too. I do that by ensuring that I've hired people who are values-aligned in the first place.
I don't look at a person's CV. It's irrelevant to me where they've worked and where they went to school — what matters to me is what they stand for, if they are going to add to, and compliment, the existing culture in our business and in some way, how they expand my team and I as people, through their contribution. During the hiring process, we ask them what they're learning and what they can teach us.
The rest as they say, are details.
I've been told I'm quite principled. I'm not sure what that really means, but I'll take it as a compliment.
I don’t know where I learned about values, but it seemed to me that only now do I understand the importance of them in every leadership context. For a long time I didn’t know what my own values were - yes, I’d regurgitate the standard list, when asked the question. Kindness, respect, integrity and others. These, to me were universal values common to simply being a good human. I kept seeking, and asking myself, What is it that I stand for? What is my line in the sand?
It was only when I’d face adversity, and my own weaknesses and shortcomings did I truly find my values, and those of the business I run.
A friend calls it ‘going through the mud’ and I agree - it’s messy. It's slow and sometimes unpredictable — going through the mud was how I found my values.
It took the realisation that I was being gaslighted by people I trusted to come to know that I value transparency in running a business. So much so that any point in time, my team know how the business is tracking financially towards its goals for the year.
It took being bullied to understand that everyone deserves a voice, and a safe space for new thoughts.
My struggle to learn and understand the mechanics of an industry I wanted to work in lead me to value teaching everything I know.
My migrant family, working class upbringing and the racist taunts that came with that, lead me to value challenging the status quo in most things I do. Having a revolutionary great, great, great Grandfather who fought in a war of independence also helps me value, and know how important it is to rattle the cage. It’s in my blood.
Struggling helped me find what I value most in the world. It helped me discover what I was willing to do, whom I was willing to work for and what type of shit I was willing to put up with; if any at all. It helped me realise what type of person I was willing to hire and which type I wasn’t.
The realisation that work meant little in my life; in the scheme of all my things, lead me to choose to value doing meaningful work. Doing ‘work’ in a different way, knowing that most people in my business wouldn’t like that and leave.
Being treated unfairly helped discern which few people I would ever call ‘friend’.
The joy, and at times difficult journey of fatherhood put everything into perspective. Even though fatherhood has been the greatest gift.
Going through the mud — the swamp of adversity helped me see myself in a new light. A brighter light.
It helped me find my values.
It helped me find my line in the sand.
Why do you do what you do?
Are you sure your first answer to that question isn’t bullshit?
What values, principles and behaviours help you do what you do?
Are you willing to let people in your life go, for these principles and values? Your clients? Your friends? Your peers, colleagues and employees?
If you’re not willing to act on them, and make difficult decisions in defence of them, they’re not values at all.