Values in Dynamic Tension

Guest post from S. Chris Edmonds:
Have you prioritized your values so you know
which ones are more important than the others? Or are all of your personal
values “tied for first?”
Here’s a way to test this idea. Note down your
top four personal values, the desired principles that guide your day-to-day
plans, decisions, and actions.
If you’ve formalized your personal values,
this exercise took mere seconds. If you’ve not formalized them, it probably
took longer.
You can’t consistently act on your values unless
you’ve specifically defined them. Formalizing desired
values requires you to identify 3-4 values that you covet. Then, add your
definition for each value. Finally, include three or four behaviors for each
value that specify exactly how you live or demonstrate that value day to day.
Here are my life values:
Integrity – Definition: Do what I
say I will do. Behaviors: Formalize my commitments with clear agreements. Keep
my commitments. Live my values and behaviors.
Joy – Definition: Celebrate the
pleasure derived from doing things I’m good at and which serve others well.
Behaviors: Be happy; if I’m not happy, change it up so happiness is present.
Surround myself with happy people who see
the good in others. Engage in the grace I feel when serving others well.
Learning – Definition: Actively
seek out information that builds new knowledge and skills. Behaviors: Scan the
environment for current research and discoveries that enlighten me. Refine my
skills often; toss antiquated approaches for improved approaches. Proactively
share my learning so others benefit.
Perfection – Definition: Deliver
excellence. Behaviors: Deliver what I promise, on time and under budget. Exceed
standards or expectations where possible. Consistently WOW my partners and
There is a school of thought that says
prioritizing values is the best way to act on them, especially under pressure.
For example, if you had “safety” as your top value and “service” as your number
two value, safety would take precedence over service. A safety issue would
demand action even if it meant service would be negatively impacted that day
(or hour).
Another school of thought says that all of
your values are of equal, top priority. If you’ve outlined your values, why
would you make one more important than another?
Reality, time constraints,
emergencies, etc. will require you to act on only one or two values at a time;
I believe the best approach lies somewhere in between the above two. Start with
the belief that your values are all tied for first, and understand that your
values are in “dynamic tension.” Acting on certain values while setting other
values aside, even for a moment, will require you to circle back and apply any
valued behaviors that were “passed over” in that instance.
So, if you acted on your “safety” value and
inhibited “service” for a time, you would follow up with the player (or
players) that you missed the service value on to explain what happened and make
amends as soon as possible.
How do you manage competing values? What
suggestions would you add to address values in “dynamic tension”? Please share
your insights, comments, and questions in the comments section below.
S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant.
After a 15-year career leading successful teams, Chris founded his consulting
company, The Purposeful
Culture Group,
 in 1990. Chris has also served as a senior consultant
with The Ken Blanchard Companies since 1995. He is the author or co-author of
seven books, including Amazon best sellers The
Culture Engine
 and Leading at a Higher Level with Ken Blanchard. Learn
from his blog posts, podcasts, assessments, research, and videos at
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