Recently, we had a leadership retreat at Synacy and part of the two-day activity was a personal values assessment (PVA) and sharing session. It turned out to be one of the most interesting parts. Aside from the great opportunity to understand each other better, it was also a great chance for us to self-reflect.
Values are what drives our decisions. When faced with making a difficult choice, we’re bound to choose what aligns to our values. Most of the time, this thought process happens unconsciously. But when you take time to reflect on why you decide to do things, you realize you simply picked what you value the most.
The tool we used for our activity was Barrett Values Institute’s Personal Values Assessment. The tool is free and I recommend people try it out on their own or with their teams. Here’s how my assessment looked:
While the activity identifies ten values, I picked five that I believe are most reflective of how I make choices.
I’m not a very affectionate person, and most of my family can easily attest to that. I really do care about my family though, and it’s become even more valuable to me since my daughter, Harper, was born. A lot of the decisions I’ve made recently have been in the hope of making life better for Gen and Harper and for us, as a family.
It’s a frequently discussed scenario – people sometimes have to make a choice between career and family. One of the reasons I moved jobs earlier this year was to seek more flexibility so I wouldn’t have to make that choice. I’d say I’m very fortunate with the level my current job affords me. It allows me to easily be there for Harper whenever I need to.
Financial Stability (Wealth)
Here’s the story – when I picked my values in the assessment, I didn’t notice “wealth” was in the options. I saw “financial stability”, which was close enough. As a bonus, it does sound a bit less materialistic. Nonetheless, I want to say now that I do value “wealth” and as worldly as it seems, I don’t believe it’s something to be afraid to admit.
To me, wealth is an easily measurable, mostly objective, and conveniently recorded measure of how well I’m doing in life. True, there’s definitely a lot more to life than just building wealth. In the end though, having wealth makes it that much easier to pursue self-fulfillment and to likewise create more value for others.
Putting this one out there, because of the ten values I picked, the assessment identified this one as “potentially limiting”. I can definitely see why. As a manager, giving people feedback is the primary thing I’m expected to do. Often, I find myself feeling uncomfortable about giving negative feedback or breaking bad news. It has to do with not wanting to offend people – “being liked”, in short.
To this point, values aren’t good or bad – they’re simply what’s important to you. For this particular one, I realized it’s key for me to use this to the best positive outcome. Not wanting to offend people can either result in withholding feedback completely, or in being more constructive with feedback. The latter is something I just have to actively learn and decide to do. Additionally, while wanting to be liked can lead to being taken advantage of, just being nice can lead to opening up great opportunities.
Humor & Fun
More of “humor” than “fun”, really. Though you might say humor is my idea of having fun. I always feel a certain sense of achievement when I get people to laugh. It’s not the grandest of successes, but laughter has the power to defuse a tense situation and I think there’s a lot of value in that.
It’s definitely important to take work seriously, but there’s a time and place for everything. Having valued humor for as long as I remember, I feel like I’ve sort of figured out when it’s appropriate or not. Well, that’s not completely true. I still have my fair share of faux pas. Nonetheless, I believe an occasional laugh rarely hurts anybody, even in the most serious of matters.
They say it’s a virtue, but it can also have a negative effect, like seeming less accountable. I really value patience though and I’ve always felt that things will happen in their right time if you work towards them. Hard work, no doubt, gets you ahead. But luck and timing are two things that still factor in whether we like it or not. These are things we are not fully in control of that affect how things happen for us.
The ability to take things slow has definitely helped me better navigate my career (and life) so far. Being overly eager to make things happen has a tendency to backfire. You might end up working circles around institutions that exist for a reason and oftentimes, risks like that just don’t pay off. Taking time to think through your strategy is often the smarter call.
Why is this important?
I’ve realized that understanding my values helps me make better sense of the decisions I make. It also allows me to think twice about my instinct, because sometimes what you value isn’t what’s best in the bigger picture. It’s also extra helpful for me to have identified a value that’s potentially limiting me. That gives me an opportunity to reconsider how I make decisions around that.
One step further, understanding what the people around you value helps develop a little bit more empathy. It also gives you an anchor for discussion when there are points you disagree on. I think this is the primary value I got from the value-sharing activity we did at our leadership retreat. I believe doing the same can greatly benefit any team or organization.
Finally, there’s an important point to be made for aligning the work you choose to what fits your values. Good companies will generally have a strong set of corporate values in place. When there’s a clash in an employee’s personal values and what the company values, it’s going to be difficult to find success and it’s likely a better option for both to part ways. On the other hand, working in line with and speaking for your company’s values, if you truly believe in them, is a great path to a fulfilling career.
Dexter is an engineering manager at Synacy, a co-founder of ATeam Business Software Solutions, and founder of TechManagement.Life. He loves to share his experiences and thoughts on managing software teams and running businesses.