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  • Writer's pictureShandy Welch

Aligning Values with Actions

Recently, I returned my Mother’s Day present.

My husband had given me a beautiful leather bag from a local shop that I love (Will’s Leather) where all of their items are handmade. Together, he and my daughter had picked out the perfect gift. It was stunning.

I found myself staring at the bag for days, loving the simple lines and noticing the care that went into every stitch. But then, I felt I had been gut-punched, I was out of alignment. I needed to muster the confidence to lean into my integrity, even at the risk of hurting my husband’s feelings. I knew that I had to return the leather bag.

At its very core, my decision came down to the principles I try to live by. You see, I value animals and I have built my life around, and given much of my time to, caring and protecting animals of all kinds. If I were to ignore these principles and keep the gift, what kind of message would I be sending if I walked around with this new leather bag?

Holding ourselves accountable at inconvenient times is the true test of integrity.  

While it may be hard to make the right choice every time, it may be worth a look in the mirror every now and then to ensure that you are holding yourself accountable. It’s important to acknowledge that when we talk the talk, we must also walk the walk. After all, as leaders, all eyes are on you. People are learning from your actions and noticing any inconsistencies, which could ultimately lead to a lack of, or adherence to, trust.

We often underestimate the power of our actions. Easily forgotten are those moments when you may think that no one is paying attention. People notice how you greet your assistant, they feel the energy that you bring to a room, and they certainly take note of how you speak of others.

It is your presence and demeanor that sets the tone for others to emulate. If you enter a room with enthusiasm and joy, you are allowing others to express themselves as well. If you visibly turn off your phone in a meeting, you will notice that others will follow, despite no words being spoken.

Your actions are amplified, emulated, and authorized by your mere presence.

If you talk of civility and collaboration but belittle your colleague and bulldoze others’ ideas, then your words will be forgotten, and trust will be lost. When you set the bar for how to conduct yourself, don’t be surprised by how others will follow your lead (good or bad).

Connecting your values with your actions is the cornerstone of great leadership.

Brene Brown speaks of the importance of knowing and understanding what you truly value. It is from these values that great leadership is derived. Check out this great clip of Brown and Jimmy Fallon discussing this very concept.

How to begin aligning your values with your actions: 

  • Be clear. Brene Brown suggests using this list to pair down your top 2-3 values (this is harder than you think.)

  • Critically look at how your work, time, and actions align with supporting and honoring your top three values.

  • If you’re out of alignment, be gentle with yourself and simply ask why. What is getting in the way of standing strong on what you believe to be important? Many times finding alignment will require giving something up that you hold important but not necessarily value (i.e., I want my husband to feel appreciated for the beautiful gesture he made, but I also need to stay strong in my convictions around animal welfare). Can I do both? Yes!

  • Give yourself a moment to set your intentions. Days can invariably get crazy. Before walking into a room, take a moment to breathe, center yourself, and bring intentionality to being present. Become mindful of your facial expression, energy, and mood. Are you bringing to the team what you hope everyone else models?

Each day, we are given the opportunity for refinement. It is like tennis. Hit the ball, learn, adjust, and hit the ball again. Give yourself grace as you navigate the game of leadership. There is always room for improvement, and there are always discoveries to be made. The only constant is the desire to continually learn, be open, and give of yourself to others.

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