Many of the things that are critical to building your brand are not about knowledge, they aren't about how you look, and they aren't about how firm your handshake is (but please, if you have one of those limp-fish handshakes, lose it!). A huge chunk of being well regarded is actually about behaviors. I cannot stress this strongly enough. What you are known for is as much about how you do what you do, as it is about what you actually do. What do you think is the most powerful factor in deciding what your behavior will be? Yes – your values.
Because your personal brand is built from the thoughts and words and reactions of other people, it’s shaped by what people come to know about you over the long run, not just by what you say in any given situation. “Do you walk the talk?” As they say, character is what you do when other people aren’t looking. This is something that you have control over. You can decide how you would like people to see you and then work on really fulfilling that image. Your values are like the lane markers on a highway, or in the most extreme cases, like the guide rails on a road. They help you navigate, and they help prevent you from going over that proverbial cliff.
Your values determine your priorities, and, deep down, they're probably the measures you use to tell if your life is turning out the way you want it to. When the things that you do and the way you behave match your values, life is usually good – you're satisfied and content. But when these don't align with your values, that's when things feel... wrong. This can be a real source of unhappiness.
How Values Help You
Your values are a central part of who you are – and who you want to be. By becoming more aware of these important factors in your life, you can use them as a guide to make the best choice in any situation.
Types of values include ethical/moral values, doctrinal/ideological (religious, political) values, social values, and aesthetic values. It is debated whether some values that are not clearly physiologically determined, such as altruism, are intrinsic, and whether some, such as acquisitiveness, should be classified as vices or virtues. Values have been studied in various disciplines: anthropology, behavioral economics, business ethics, corporate governance, moral philosophy, political sciences, social psychology, sociology and theology to name a few.
Some of life's decisions are really about determining what you value most. When many options seem reasonable, it's helpful and comforting to rely on your values – and use them as a strong guiding force to point you in the right direction.
Values can be defined as broad preference concerning appropriate courses of action or outcomes. As such, values reflect a person's sense of right and wrong or what "ought" to be. "Equal rights for all", "Excellence deserves admiration", and "People should be treated with respect and dignity" are representative of values. Values tend to influence attitudes and behavior. If you value family, but you have to work 70-hour weeks in your job, will you feel internal stress and conflict? And if you don't value competition, and you work in a highly competitive sales environment, are you likely to be satisfied with your job?
In these types of situations, understanding your values can really help. When you know your own values, you can use them to make decisions about how to live your life, and you can answer questions like these:
- What job should I pursue?
- Should I accept this promotion?
- Should I start my own business?
- Should I compromise, or be firm with my position?
- Should I follow tradition, or travel down a new path?
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Values are usually fairly stable, yet they don't have strict limits or boundaries. Also, as you move through life, your values may change as your situation changes. You may be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Maslow wanted to understand what motivates people. He believed that people possess a set of motivation systems unrelated to rewards or unconscious desires. People are motivated to achieve certain needs, some are more basic than others. People focus on the attainment of their basic needs first and then progress to fulfilling more sophisticated needs later. Every person is capable and has the desire to move up the hierarchy toward a level of self-actualization. Unfortunately, progress is often disrupted by failure to meet lower level needs. Life experiences including divorce and loss of job may cause an individual to fluctuate between levels of the hierarchy. For example, when you start your career, success – measured by money and status – might be a top priority. But after you have a family, work-life balance may be what you value more.
As your definition of success changes, so do your values. This is why keeping in touch with your values is a lifelong exercise. You should continuously revisit this, especially if you start to feel unbalanced... and you can't quite figure out why. While Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs describes WHAT people are seeking, our personal values are the internal compass that determine how we navigate towards each objective level.
People operating at the most basic levels in Maslow’s Hierarchy are described as “Settlers”. They are most focused on satisfying needs such as:
- Core physiological needs.
- Safety and Security.
And the values that drive their behavior include things like:
- Family and home, and caring for them, tend to be at the center.
- For those living alone, friends take the place of family.
- Tradition and family structure are important.
- Prefer things to be "normal".
- Naturally conservative (with a small "c").
- Security conscious - wary of crime, violence and terrorism.
- Supportive of tough punishment for criminals.
- Wary of change, especially for its own sake.
- More comfortable with regular and routine situations.
- Concerned about what the future holds.
Prospectors are more focused on social achievement and their most urgent needs include:
- Esteem of Others
- Self Esteem
Some typical Prospector characteristics are:
- Success oriented.
- Always want to "be the best" at what they are doing.
- Welcome opportunities to show their abilities.
- Take great pleasure in recognition and reward.
- Look to maximize opportunities.
- Will take opportunities for advancement and professional networking.
- Trend and fashion conscious.
- Like new ideas and new ways.
- Generally optimistic about the future.
Having attained the lower need states, Pioneers are focused on improving themselves. They value things that help them do that such as:
- Trying to put things together and understand the big picture.
- Concerned about the environment, society, world poverty, etc.
- Always looking for new questions and answers.
- Strong internal sense of what is right and what is wrong.
- Strong desire for fairness, justice and equality.
- Self-assured and sense of self-agency.
- Generally positive about change, if it seems worthwhile.
- Cautiously optimistic about the future
A Final Point
When you consider your values in decision making, you can be sure to keep your sense of integrity and what you know is right, and approach decisions with confidence and clarity. You'll also know that what you're doing is best for your current and future happiness and satisfaction.
This is even Biblical. In Matthew’s gospel, we hear Jesus teaching his disciples “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
Making value-based choices may not always be easy. However, making a choice that you know is right is a lot less difficult in the long run.
In a world where people will do business with you when they believe you have their best interest at heart, your values are a critical point of difference between you and the people you compete with. Gaining real influence is completely about this point. You can learn a lot more about this by reading the book "Real Influence."