Last week I spoke at a Women Leading Business Masterclass on the importance of sticking to your values. I was surprised by the number of women who have contacted me to share how difficult they find it to create boundaries around their professional values. This is how I see it:
- Identify your core professional values
We are all driven by many motivations and experiences, but if you strip down all the rhetoric, you will come back to 3 or 4 basic values which guide how you act and therefore what you are prepared to accept in a professional context. You will probably find this exercise quite easy if you think about what annoys you most about a current professional situation – you may well find that your biggest worries are a reflection of your strongest values. For example, if you are constantly frustrated by someone stealing your ideas, this represents a value statement on the importance you place on trust and equal sharing of information.
My top three values:
- Respect for the professional time of others
- Clarity and openness about how money is spent
- The importance of discussion and debate which is not personal
- Put your values into practice
Building your value-system into your daily professional life alleviates the risk of finding yourself in personal and awkward situations where you feel compromised. It is more straightforward to say up-front “I offer one free session and all advice after that is charged at my usual rate”, rather than spend hours on a project feeling resentful that your time is being taken for granted. Establishing your business language, working practices and even marketing material within the clear framework of your professional values sets the tone of every conversation you have. Have a look at your current marketing collateral – does it reflect your value system as well as your business product?
- Be ready to walk away – trust your gut!
Ultimately, we are often afraid to put our values to the test for fear of offending someone, losing business or income or just worrying about being seen to be difficult. The reality is, a situation which makes you uncomfortable, is unlikely to be one which you wish to continue anyway. You will save time, money and reputation by trusting your gut and removing yourself from the situation, rather than letting it escalate to a point where you have no choice. Building a reputation as someone who exercise their judgement consistently builds trust and credibility with the RIGHT clients.
As women in business, we tend to be too grateful, too eager to please and far too worried about whether or not we are liked. You are never going to get universal approval for everything you do. If you stick to your value system, make decisions which are congruent and trust your instinct about what doesn’t feel right, you will be much better able to make professional choices which work for you.