How to uncover your Key Personal Values

Our last blog explained why we believe being clear about your personal values is essential to maintain a healthy mind when leading any 4th Sector organisation, yet when we ask this question to the 4th Sector Entrepreneurs we work with, they can often find answering it quite daunting.  In fact so did I when we first tried to put down my values.  It is all too easy to disappear down a rabbit hole and then get so lost in the process you stop. 

In the end I found it really useful to do a couple of very simple exercises that I learnt from Deri Llewellyn-Davies, the founder of BGI and Creator of “Strategy on a page”.

Once you’ve done them you should have a list, ideally of single words, with a short sentence of no more than 12 words explaining why you feel they’re important to you. You can then top it off by a punchy 3-word summary.

For example one of my core values is Challenging – to maximise the potential for anyone or situation based on what they want.  I summarise this as “Push to improve”.

The key to the ‘value’ of values is to be able to use them all the time and to do this you have to be able to articulate and explain them without hesitation, so we recommend no more than five values and fewer if possible. 

Exercise 1

Here’s an exercise to help you define your values:

Finish this sentence in five different ways – ‘I really love it when…’ And then finish this sentence in five different ways – ‘I really hate it  when…’ 

Now, try to identify the value at the heart of each sentence. 

For example, ‘I really love it when someone shows a bit of initiative’ could mean that you value creativity or risk-taking or courage. There’s a range of possibilities. 

While I really hate it when people argue could mean that you value harmony or collaboration or simply kindness between people. Again, there are different possibilities. 

Make a list of all the values you’ve identified and boil them down to a maximum of five. 

Exercise 2

You can now refine the list by doing this 2nd exercise:

Consider some people that you have worked with who have upset you.  These should include customers, suppliers and employees.  

A good place to start is thinking of examples of people who when the phone rings or an email arrives in your in box your heart sinks.  Or employees that you have had to fire.

In every case these have contravened a value that is important to you. 

Once you have your list, double-check it against the list you created in the first exercise. Have you come up with anything new or are they simply variations of your first list? Where there is variation think about how you can possibly merge some together into a single, embracing value that covers what you are looking for.  

The next step is to start using them as I shall cover in our next blog.