Today’s post is the feature article from the July 2004 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.
“He is rotten to the core.” I remember, while growing up in the South, that every now and then I would hear this phrase being said about someone. It was the lowest of low in terms of character reference! Beyond behavior and beyond wants and needs — the essence of the accusation was that it was the foundation, the very middle, the deep inside core of that person which had spoiled. Their core values had become corrupt.
Even if it was true, it was more likely by evolution rather than by intentional choice. Not many people want to be intentionally rotting at the core. William Graham Sumner described the challenge quite well when he said, “I have never discarded beliefs deliberately. I left them alone in a drawer. After a while I opened it and there was nothing there.”
I used to think it would be easy for any adult to sit and write down their core values. For ten years I co-instructed a Leadership Workshop. Through that experience I discovered how difficult it is for adults to clearly define their core values. My co-instructor would do a terrific job of describing the concept of core values and then send the participants away for what they thought would be an easy 90-minute exercise — to WRITE DOWN their core values. Over the years we came to know the difficult nature of the assignment. The participants would confidently begin by thinking they could write forever. Most participants were surprised in the challenge they faced in finding the right words — or any words.
There seems to be a dangerous assumption that we just “know” our values. But we have to be careful in what we assume — both individually and within the organization in which we work. Values are most alive when we have specific words to describe them and we remain consciously connected to them. It sounds so simple, but in reality, few of us make a practice of routinely making this connection. Remember, be careful of what you assume you know!
How consciously, intentionally and concretely are you connected to your values?
Action Idea: First, take a 30-minute block of time this next month and WRITE DOWN your core values. Second, get a copy of the core values of your organization and read them. Better yet, memorize them and take personal responsibility for bringing them to life in your work and in your relationships at work!