Have confidence in your own beliefs when communicating your values says Heather Wright
As an Assistant, have you ever gone along with another person’s opinion, telling yourself it’s important to compromise (or even assuming that they know better), and later on regretted not sticking to your guns?
Be clear on what you stand for
Most organisations recognise that culture underpins their vision, values and strategy and informs the way they hope their people will interact and are perceived by others. We are all conversant with the term ‘brand’ yet often focus on the marketplace identity rather than the fundamentals such as the behaviour of every person that makes up the DNA of the company.
When I’m running training programmes for teams, I find that many people have never asked themselves ‘What is important to me?’ or considered how their values should drive their decision making and behaviours. In recognising and defining your values, they become a clear ‘litmus test’ for behaviour as you can easily identify if what you are saying and doing are aligned. Values also give us the confidence to stand up or push back, depending on the situation.
What makes us compromise our values?
Sometimes we understand the theory of our company values – as stated on the website and maybe posters round the office, but it doesn’t always translate fully to the reality of how people behave and make decisions. The key is to recognise the moment when the disconnect is taking place.
If we struggle with confrontation and are anxious about what others might think, we may be more likely to short-cut values when it feels like there’s a chance we’ll fall out of favour. Sometimes it takes courage to be true to yourself.
There are occasions when we may be so focused on the outcome, we give less consideration to how it is achieved. In doing so, we compromise our values in the name of a ‘quick win’.
Some might believe that values are ‘fluffy’ or intangible and are purely reserved for slogans on walls. Only when we embody them can they truly come to life.
Handling the discomfort of difficult situations
In work, as in life, it’s rarely plain sailing all the time. Few people float through life without any concerns or challenges, yet we still avoid difficult feelings and stand back from potential confrontation. This is often driven by fear of being disliked or the stress that can arise from navigating disputes.
When we don’t deal with an issue when it arises, resentment can build and it heightens activity in the amygdala, bypassing our more rational prefrontal cortex, creating stress conditions.
Here are five practical steps you can take to find your way through confrontation and bring clarity to the process:
- Pre-empt issues by having team discussions before problems arise. Understanding people’s points of view and what’s important to them helps to establish dynamics. It’s also a good plan to agree what steps to take should this be undermined, so the team as a whole can avoid fall-out.
- Have confidence in your own beliefs and values. We simply need to get used to explaining them clearly to someone we may believe has more authority than us.
- Find the links between company values and your personal values – so that if you need to make a point, you can use the organisational vision to support your discussion.
- Reflect, not just on your values but the practical everyday behaviours that underpin them. Values are meaningless if they don’t drive our behaviours.
- Remain focused on the intended outcome of any discussion. We often forget this during disagreements, but clarity is key.
In my leadership training I see so much evidence to confirm that good communication and clear boundaries are a solid foundation to enable people to express themselves without fear of repercussions. In open, honest environments the leadership culture ensures it’s healthy to have differing opinions. Trust and mutual respect between colleagues gives them the courage to bring their whole selves to work and to be who they are, without compromising what they stand for.