As the global pandemic continues to pervade our daily lives change and challenge is rife. Whilst organisations are all subject to national or regional restrictions, each entity has its own inherent challenges dependent on the industry, its financial robustness, cultural agility and market responsiveness or ability to ‘pivot’. And in as far as the impact of changes on the staff concerned; whilst there is a sense of kindred spirit by ‘being in the same boat’; the experience is wholly personal and unique. No one person has the exact same lens through which they see the world.
The current context and degree of flux can lead to underlying feelings of uncertainty about the future, high levels of stress due to upheaval and adjustment (whether that be adopting new processes or team changes); the anxiety of redundancy, or potential overwhelm at trying to juggle the work life balance at home. Whichever one of these scenarios applies; it can leave us feeling under-par, exhausted, bewildered or out of control. When external forces are impinging negatively upon our lives; it’s vital to take a step back and look within to consider who we are and why we are here. Taking a more philosophical view point can help us reach a place of calm and detachment from the chaos around us and feel more grounded.
1- Define your values. The first step is to draw up a list of your own core personal values. This is a curious exercise to do, and can be an incredibly insightful way to understand what makes us tick. I recently reviewed my own values as part of my personal development programme and found that there were some very strong themes emerging (in the picture above you’ll see my top twenty). You can access lists of values such as these on the web: https://bit.ly/37wbHZz Selecting your own set of values can be a rather arduous task; so one way to narrow down the list is to think about which values you simply can’t live without; or to recall challenging jobs or relationships; and identify what was amiss. For example, loyalty is one of my primary values and therefore if my boss or organisation doesn’t display loyalty in return to my own; I find the working relationship very difficult; and it can become untenable.
2 – Define your life purpose(s). Taking this step a stage further (if desired), is to think in more holistic terms of our overall purpose in life, or the intrinsic value we can bring to others. McKinsey refers to nine categories or typologies based on common groupings of values (see diagram below) or follow the link: https://mck.co/2TfhvOL Each one of us will fall into one or several of these categories. Which one or two resonate? Interestingly, their studies indicate that those individuals who are both aware of and living their ‘life purpose’ or well aligned to it; have five times more resilience than other employees.
3 – Decide whether you’re living your values. Once you have a clear sense of your top ten or twenty values – take a moment to reflect on what these are, and how amazingly unique you are. Our values system drives our behaviours and actions. Also ask yourself whether you’re living these values or not. If you’re not living your values, you can feel comprised, unfulfilled or drained.
4 – View your current state against your values. Going back to the challenging context within which we find ourselves today – you can then begin to apply your values as a useful frame of reference. The first step here is to acknowledge how you’re feeling and be totally honest about it – the good, the bad and the ugly (writing it down can be useful). Then consider how these feelings may relate to some of your core values. Understanding why we feel as we do can help to rationalise what is happening to us, and accept it for what it is. For example, if teamwork or connection is a priority value, and we find ourselves now working at home alone away from our team, this can obviously make us feel uncomfortable or reduce energy levels.
5 – Identify what positive changes can be made. Each person’s individual set of values drives their behaviours, and these behaviours can be directed into making positive changes. Taking each ‘bad’ or negative feeling in turn, identify whether there is something you can do to offset the feeling and re-balance that particular value. If social connection with colleagues is paramount; what means are there to instigate more connection with the team such as virtual coffee breaks? There may not be obvious solutions for all the feelings listed, but there will likely be a number of practical starting points to re-dress the balance.
6 – Identify how to positively help others. The next step is to consider more broadly what you can do to positively channel your core values and source of energy back into the workplace to support others, or bring about positive change. What do you feel passionate about? In which areas can you add value? Is there an online social activity you could organise each week (e.g. Friday night drinks) to reach out to others and inject some fun? There may be others who feel similarly disconnected but don’t have the energy or courage to do anything about it. Giving back or helping others in itself can enable us to feel purposeful and it can also be rewarding.
The key to channelling our values is an exercise in self-awareness, self-acceptance and the volition to follow up. Taking positive action can enable us to expand our sphere of influence; and is a process that can be applied on an iterative basis. Taking action, however small, can help us to feel more in control and positive in difficult times. Remember, the greater the challenge in life the greater the opportunity.