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The Leader’s Voice: Honor Your Values

Wow, it’s 2016!  I love new beginnings.  I get chills when I think about all the possibilities waiting for you and me this year.  January is a great month to expire bad habits, divorce toxic people, forgive ourselves and commit to fully living.   I challenge you to get focused on creating the life you want. Be bold and believe again.

This year, may your joys, like the stars at night, be too numerous to count!


Most of us live our lives by some sort of moral code, either consciously or unconsciously. We tend to have a strong sense of right or wrong. I like to call these elements our personal “non-negotiables.” This set of firm beliefs can also be identified as our core values.

I define values as the qualities of a life lived fully from the inside out. Values anchor us and give us the strength to make decisions that will positively impact our lives. Surprisingly, values are intangibles. They are not activities we demonstrate or things we have. For example, a luxury car is not a value. It can lead to honoring values such as fun, adventure or prestige. Similarly, swimming is not a value. It too can lead to honoring values such as discipline, good health or nature. I think you get the point.

Below are a few examples of values*:

ambition, competency, individuality, equality, integrity, service, responsibility, accuracy, respect, dedication, diversity, improvement, enjoyment/fun, loyalty, credibility, honesty, innovation, teamwork, excellence, accountability, empowerment, quality, efficiency, dignity, collaboration, stewardship, empathy, accomplishment, courage, wisdom, independence, security, challenge, influence, learning, compassion, friendliness, discipline/order, generosity, persistence, optimism, dependability, flexibility

* Source: Success in Life and Work; by Susan M. Heathfield

Too often we are unable to identify the things that really matter to us. We don’t live our lives in alignment with our values and consequently wonder why we feel unbalanced or why things aren’t working out the way we planned.

Most of our values are given to us by others including our parents, friends, culture, religion, etc. When I asks individuals to state their values and the reason why they chose them, I’m often given an answer that reflects cultural norms; not necessarily a belief based on personal insight, intrinsic connection or desire. Rarely do we engage in exercises that force us to think about what’s most important and the application to our lives.

I believe that it’s important to develop a good understanding of your values. They often influence your life’s direction and motivate your behavior. Values are also essential for keeping your life on track. Once defined, they can impact every aspect of your being.


Discover Your True Values


Everyone must determine their own values.  It should not be difficult for you to identify them.  They typically show up in the way you live. When you think about individuals you know, you can surmise quite a bit about their values by paying attention to their attire, their interest, whom they engage with, the books they read and the depth of their conversations.

Start this year off right by identifying your values.  If you already have a list of solid values that you live by, use the next exercise to re-visit them and examine if they are still working.  Most people will have between 4 and 8 values that reflect who they truly are and what really matters most.

I encourage you to think beyond what you’ve been indoctrinated to value from others and focus on what you know and believe is true for YOU. Follow the steps below and enjoy the value discovery journey!


Step One

  • Think about the patterns in your life.  Where are you constantly spending time and energy?
  • What gives you a greater sense of meaning and purpose?
  • What do you care about deeply and passionately?
  • What defines your character?
  • What qualities guide your decisions and behaviors?


Step Two

  • After you have identified your list of values above, create clarifying statements that capture the full essence of each value.  For example, one of my values is meaningful work.  My clarity statement is:  It’s important for me to find or create meaningful work that adds value to others, grows people and builds communities.


Step Three

  • Rank how you are honoring each of your values 1-10; 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest.
  • Capture where you are most aligned and notice where you have the greatest opportunities for improvement.


Are you living your values?  What values would you like to honor more? What is the price you pay by not honoring your values?

When you are not in alignment with your values, you act in ways that conflict with your life’s direction. You find that your life doesn’t flow easily. And it appears that you may struggle with almost everything you endeavor.

It’s quite the contrary when we stand firm and honor our values.  It allows us to live in full alignment with who we are mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically.  We essentially live from the inside out!  We achieve psychological substance.  We are able to clearly affirm our identity.  Our lives have clear direction.  Lastly, we have the ability to quickly decide against experiences or behaviors that no longer serve us.

Go forward and step boldly into your dynamic, purposeful and value-led life!

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About Dr. Tiffany Dotson | Connect on LinkedIn

tiffany webDr. Dotson is an author, speaker, coach and leadership scholar/practitioner with 20 years of experience helping individuals from the C-suite to the Frontline improve their leadership skills, re connect to their greatness and find fulfillment in their lives. She has held leadership roles at Pfizer, JPMorgan Chase, MetLife, CVS/Caremark and United Airlines. She currently holds the position of Chief Talent Officer at Pride Global.

Dr. Dotson is certified to administer several leadership, behavioral and motivational assessments and a myriad of global leadership development programs. She coaches leaders at all levels and is in great demand for helping senior leaders build high performing teams. She holds both Masters and Doctorate degrees in Adult Learning and Leadership from Columbia University.