Research Paper By Rosie Kropp
(Executive Coach, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)
Aristotle believed there was a set of core values that should manifest themselves in the behaviour of all human beings. These were courage, honesty, friendliness, wittiness, rationality in judgment, mutually beneficial friendships and the pursuit of knowledge and truth. We live our lives based on our core values; it is the foundation of our lives from where we make our decisions
Many clients who come to a coach do so as they are not satisfied with their current life situation and are longing for something more, better or different but they are not sure what that is. They often lack a clear vision and purpose in life and are not always aware of what their core values are or how living in harmony with one’s inner values can affect their happiness. To explore and define a persons values is therefore of crucial importance in a coaching programme as it affects all areas of the persons life. Thereafter, the client needs to align their life to their value foundation in order to live a fulfilled life.
We spend much of our time working wherefore the values that are perceived in our working life is highly important for us to feel good about ourselves and what we are doing. Unfortunately, many people struggle to align their own values with those of corporates where they often lack meaning, personal satisfaction and passion for what they do. This can affect other areas of their lives negatively and therefore the choice of where, how and what to do while working is an important question for a persons wellbeing.
How important are values and value-alignment for a person and how does it affect their working life? How can a coach best support a client in exploring and defining their values? Is there a new generation of value-driven individuals who prefer to choose to start their own business instead of working for a corporate if there is a lack of value-alignment and what type of values are steering them? This paper will explore those all those areas.
The importance of values and value alignment
Values relate to our purpose in life and should be used as guiding principles to make our lives easier and more fulfilled. Values will vary from person to person as they depend on personal judgment, upbringing, culture and traditions. Our values are of extreme importance as they steer and shape most of the things around us: relationships, behaviour, choices and personal identity are all affected by a persons values. When our actions and words are aligned with our values, we feel content, happy, confident and satisfied. But when our behaviors don’t match with our values, we will begin to sense an uneasiness that will grow inside of us and creates negative energy. A persons life will become less stressful and more productive, when acknowledging what his/her personal values are – and then make the attempt to live by and honor these values regardless of the circumstances the client will encounter. As Dalai Lama has expressed
Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
Values can change over time, therefore it is important to check upon them regularly to ensure they are the right ones.
Values help people get and stay motivated and they provide a person with a strong foundation; a method for living life to it’s fullest. Values will also help a person finding their purpose in life. In a coaching programme there are several tools and exercises that can help a client to explore and define their values. A coach can help clients to define their value foundation by asking powerful questions:
- What is most important to you in life?
- What principles/standards/ qualities do you consider worthwhile or desirable?
- What personal values resonate most with you in order to live a great life?
- What is important in your working life?
- Are your personal and business values aligned?
A list of values can values can be helpful to start the conversation where it is important that they client choose and priorities the values they find truly important in life, not the ones they think they should have. A value pyramid is a great tool to discuss and understand that different values bear different importance. To discuss a client’s role models can also reveal what values they admire. The important thing is to confirm what the client’s core values are and for the client to find a way to live by them in all areas of life.
The role of values in working life
If a persons business values and personal values are in alignment, that is great. If they are not, the person will be dissatisfied, unhappy and not perform well. The importance of value alignment in the working place is significant, especially when looking at how much time of our lives we spend at work.
Due to Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter at Harvard Business School, a new type of 21st century company is emerging that is transforming how business is conducted. These are values-driven companies that define a core set of values and rely on these values in making all strategic decisions. Such companies are transforming themselves, their industries, and the world. This values-based orientation attracts and motivates employees, appeals to customers, leads to focused innovation, and creates competitive advantage. A focus on values enables companies to change and bounce back quickly from challenging situations. This is how many successful companies will operate and behave in the future. They will be less hierarchical and more driven by flexible networks, more open and transparent while bringing society and its needs inside.2)
Unfortunately, this type of value-driven companies has taken a backseat during the last year’s global crisis where we instead have witnessed and focused on greed, irresponsibility, dishonesty and inhumanity among many corporates. One would think that the financial crisis should have led to people being more appreciative of their employments and less prone to leave it because it is not aligned with their values. However, recent data from the US shows that the last year’s financial crisis has actually resulted in more people leaving their positions despite the uncertainty in the world. The US unemployment rate remains high at 9,1%. Meanwhile, the number of new businesses is growing at the fastest rate in 15 years, according to the entrepreneurial and educational research group the Kauffman Foundation. Throughout the 2000s, only 4% of new business owners in the US listed “lack of employment options” as a motivator to start their business. So, what motivates those entrepreneurs to leave corporates and start their own businesses? It seems like the corporate world no longer is capable of attracting people with the old attributes of security, career, status and money as those entrepreneurs have other drivers.
Values and entrepreneurship
Today’s entrepreneurship is a strong value-based process that is needed to be successful in the long run. The Kauffman Foundations research on entrepreneurship in the US shows that a majority of today’s entrepreneurs can be defined by values such as wanting to have more control over your own destiny and security.
For the purpose of this paper, a qualitative survey of 15 entrepreneurs across different nationalities, ages and gender has been conducted to explore the importance of values and key drivers to become an entrepreneur. The survey shows that values are of crucial importance when it comes to working life and when personal and corporate values are not aligned, people take the decision to start their own value-based business.
In the survey, following one’s inner values is highlighted as very important and a core driver to start a business. Core values mentioned by the respondents are; caring for family and friends, health, life/work balance, freedom, flexibility, respect, passion, personal development and learning. Other values expressed are aspirations, having fun, adventure, improving society, fairness, ethics, social justice and honesty.
Most of the respondents felt that their values were lacking or not considered important in the corporates they previously worked for. That was the major reason for many of them to leave and start their own business. The key drivers for them to start their own business were to create alignment with their personal values. Steering their own time and destiny was important as well as achieving their dreams and working with their passion. They also express excitement over the opportunity to develop themselves and to be able to build something instead of changing something – which is the normal situation while working for a corporate.