I’m grateful to thought leader, author, friend and brother Kevin Freiberg for sharing this month’s image with us.  Kevin so wonderfully describes his image of “a porch” this way:  Metaphorically, a place where I can sit with God alone, or maybe in the company of a good friend, and see through His eyes. It’s hard to see what you aren’t looking for, but when I choose to stop and participate with Him in seeing what He sees, letting Him show me, the world opens up in new ways. I discover something redeeming in people who annoy the shit out of me, people He created and He loves. I become just a bit more patient and grace-oriented, for this is His nature—in me. I trade future-tripping for being in the moment, relaxing with and into Him. I dream about the next adventure, for He loves me where I am but doesn’t want me to stay where I am. I cherish what I have and live with more gratitude. The Porch is my conduit to reflection and reflection makes me a better person. May we all find our Porch and then acquire the wisdom to pull over and spend time there.

Values Gone Naked

by John G. Blumberg

About the time I was beginning to write the leadership version of Return On Integrity, I had the opportunity to meet up with Jerry Porras, co-author with Jim Collins of the best-seller, Built to Last. Our discussion naturally moved to a discussion about values.  I knew that Jerry and Jim had addressed organizational values in their book, yet I wondered if they had given much focus on personal values.  He said they had not.  He paused saying: “I think you are on to something.” Our conversation continued a bit before Jerry reflected: “We truly understand our core values when they are put to the test. Until then they are just a concept.” I followed with: “I agree … and, yet, I fully believe the moment of the test is a really horrible time to start figuring them out.” He smiled and said: “I think you’re on to something!” Now, looking back, I think my response was, at best, only half right.

I still believe, whether we are talking about organizational values or personal values, that the moment of the test – the change, the challenge, the confrontation, the crunch, the crisis, or the catastrophe – is a really horrible time to start figuring them out.  However, at the same time, if you haven’t already figured them out by the moment of that test …

It is the perfect time to start.

In times of crisis, those very layers that fog the vision of our core values (our needs, our wants and our compliant behaviors) are often ripped away.  In effect, that leaves our values standing there, as I used to say growing-up in the south, butt-naked! To take that a step further — without some careful attention to the need for initially grasping and ultimately discerning a set of strongly grounded values — it can likely leave one fully exposed as a complete ass!

While it won’t be intentional … it will simply be the human nature blindness of our ungrounded fear reaching-for and clinging-to the illusion of desperate needs, wants and frantic behaviors.

What’s worse is when “values” have been pre-identified – yet they are not values at all.  They are simply words expressing wonderful behaviors, inspiring wants and valid needs. As I look across the landscape of stated organizational core values (as well as on the list of many individuals) this is often the case.  Needs, wants and behaviors are all important — yet in the time of a real test, they will fall short of the depth of insight that is needed. And in the void of real core values, they will likely take you down a path driven by panic and protection of the past – rather that faith and fortitude towards the future.

Core values guide the long-term trajectory of who you are becoming.  Yet, in the moment of a big test, your core values stand naked – fully revealing who you are – to both yourself and everyone else. And for some individuals and organizations, the moment of this big test gives them the rich opportunity to see just how far they have drifted from who they really meant to be.

Nothing in an organization or in our personal lives holds us more accountable to the joy of who we really are than our core values. They don’t guide us towards soft and easy decisions.  Rather, they keep us strong in the midst of the most tough decisions – and show us how to proceed through those tough decisions — carrying them out with a grace that fully honors the values we have come to understand and embrace.

There are only a handful of times in life where a truly significant test is presented to us. And while it won’t feel this way, it would be a great tragedy to miss the fact  …

These tests are gifts for your core.

We are in the midst of living through one of those rare gifts.  Yet, unlike any other time in our life, this gift is offered individually, organizationally, nationally and globally – all at the same time.

In my body of work on integrity, I have noted that behaviors, wants, needs and core values are all uniquely important.  At the same time, I have noted that the most distinguishing characteristic of a core value is that it never divides.  This is precisely why core values are so critical in a time of crisis.  For they are the seeds that give birth to the opportunity that awaits inside every crisis – for every person, for every organization, for every nation … and yes, this time, for our entire planet.

In a time like this, your values are showing anyway.

What a wonderful time to go ahead and strip-down, intentionally rediscover our core values and let them shine as a guiding light … butt naked!

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts, insights, and comments below!

Editor’s Note:  You might of thought it was “buck naked.”  This is a BOTH/AND, so you would be half right.  Either way (butt or buck) the expression is slang … and you might say both get you to the same idea!