“Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.” — Ayn Rand
When you learn to live your values at work, you transform your career into a powerful path of inspired growth and greatness.
One of the best leadership trainings I ever attended focused on finding your core values.
And then living them at work. That’s the challenge.
Through a series of exercises, we figured out what our top 3 value are.
Mine came down to adventure, excellence, and empowerment.
One of the exercises was to figure out how you could live your values more at work.
Looking back, it was surprising at the time, but almost two decades later I realize how transformational this was.
Leading Epic Adventures
This was the biggest transformation for me. I remember my colleague asking me about my stories of adventures in my Jeep, epic road trips, and really having a sense of adventure in everything I do, outside of work.
She challenged me:
“How can you bring more adventure to work?”
I had never thought about work like that. I give my all, and I strive for excellence, and I keep learning. But I never thought of my projects as adventures.
Well, talk about a game changer.
As soon as I got back to work, I challenged the team to create “the movie poster” for our epic adventure. It was a great exercise because it forced us to really think about the big challenge we were taking on in terms of the greatest impact, the greatest growth, and our greatest adventure.
From that point onward, I always think of my projects as epic adventures. It helps inspire the team because they realize they are part of something bigger, doing something better, and making impact in a more channeled way.
I am glad I learned that so long ago, because in the end, I think that work is really a series of adventures you go on with amazing people to try to change the world your way.
Focusing on Mastery
Excellence is a journey, and it takes a special mindset, motivation, and focus.
To live my value of excellence at work, I focus on mastery.
I turn chores into chances to master my craft and I learned from the best-of-the-best.
It’s amazing what you can learn, simply by starting from the question, who is the best at that, then learning from them.
For example, I wanted to master stress for extreme conditions. Well, who better than the masters of the worst stress imaginable, but the Navy Seals.
So I learned two different breathing techniques the Navy Seals use. One is a fast way to slow your heart rate down, the other is retrains your nervous system to default to deeper, fuller, calmer breaths. (They typical person breathes 16-20 breaths shallow breaths per minute, but a well-trained Seal would breathe at 4 deep breaths per minute.)
That’s an extreme example of physical conditioning, but I like to learn from everyone around the world whether it’s driving digital transformation better, mastering innovation, or taking sustainability to the next level.
What I’ve found is that people that are very good and truly enjoy what they do, like to share their super power with others, under the right conditions.
It’s their chance to do what they do best.
Sure, dome people are insecure, and others are only motivated by money, but the true artists of their art seem generous with people who genuinely appreciate what they bring to the table.
Empowerment in me is strong. That’s why I joined Microsoft, little did I know it at the time, but somehow, I knew the company valued empowerment and diversity.
Empowerment is core to my management philosophy and leadership style. Where I grew up, your goal is to work yourself out of your job and keep growing while lifting others to new levels.
And you don’t do that through micro-management.
And the measure of a great leader to me is three-fold:
- How well do they bring out the best in others?
- How well do they create a compelling future worth creating?
- How many great leaders to they grow out from under them?
While there is a place for common processes, what I’ve learned is that you get the best out of people when you get out of their way, clear their roadblocks, and inspire them with ambitious challenges that speak to their strengths.
It sounds silly but in my experience, I see a lot of managers who default to imposing their style and their sytems on other people, instead of figuring out how to bring out the best. Or worse, putting people in positions that don’t make sense, like asking a chef to farm, or a catcher to pitch.
It takes work, but to build a team where people can do what they do best, it means you really get them. That takes empathy and connection and an appreciation for an individual beyond their title or role.
It takes human ingenuity.
Your Values are Your Most Powerful Transformation Levers
When you know your core values, you can use them to generate energy and to transform your work or your job, or even your career.
Most people wander through their jobs without a strong sense of how to live their values.
Or they try to live their company values without a strong sense of self, and that’s no good either.
What makes you strong is a strong sense of self, grounded in your values, and a strong sense of mission.
From there, you find ways to integrate and become the greatest version of yourself, while your job becomes your greatest dojo for your personal growth and greatness.
If you find yourself, tired, rundown, listless, one of the best remedies is to find ways to spend more time in your values and transform your job into a powerful and inspiring path to grow your best where you have your best to grow.