After guiding a senior leadership team to helping them identify their values, I proceeded to take them through a process of defining specifically how they would ensure that they would live these values in their leadership, first as an SLT and then throughout the company.

Like most organizations, the value of “respect” was up near the top.

And that’s when it got sticky.

“What about Bob?” the COO asked.

“What about Bob?” I responded.

“He heads up our main sales division, and it’s well known that he’s one of the most disrespectful people in the company. We can’t fire him. He singly brings in more money to the company than our entire sales team.”

“You don’t necessarily need to fire him,” I said. “But if you don’t do something about this, then I suggest you take the word respect off your values list and replace it with the word profit. Be honest about what you truly value.”

They decided to fire him, and the entire sales team started to flourish. They got the message that the senior leaders were serious about the values they were touting.

In walking organizations through the values journey over the years, I’ve learned five things:

  1. Make it real. It’s been trendy over the past couple of decades to re-brand your values every five years. It’s also been a lucrative business for consultants. While having clearly defined values is important, you make it real by involving the front-lines in developing them and creating meaningful and accountable culture conversations with everyone. If the end result isn’t real and relevant at the field level, you’re wasting your time and breeding cynicism.
  2. You don’t really know what your values are until they’re tested under pressure. If your values haven’t come into conflict lately, if you haven’t had some tough conversations about the contradictions in what you claim to be important, if you haven’t had some uncomfortable value discussions, you probably haven’t taken your values seriously enough. Don’t mistake value statements for real values.
  3. Just as you can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do, you can’t build a reputation in your organization on espoused values. For example, if you’re serious about creating a safe workplace, don’t tell people “We’re going to be #1 in safety.” Tell people what you are willing to pay to get there.
  4. Values based leadership is built on the foundation of values based living. When we clarify our own values and develop a process for holding ourselves accountable to live in alignment with those values, we make better leaders in every aspect of our lives.
  5. When it comes to values, most of us really are doing the best we can. Let’s grant each other a bit of grace and support each other to use values to strengthen our organization, bolster our relationships and our fortify our resolve to be better people.

How do we acknowledge – and honour – those that have passed on?

Success guru Napoleon Hill teaches that when two or more people blend the energies of their minds in harmony, a sort of “third brain” or powerful “Master Mind” is formed that can recharge their brains, refine their ideas, and provide support and inspiration. He also believed you can form your own “cabinet of invisible counselors” through a regular practice of meditation or prayer anytime you are in need of guidance, support, or inspiration.

The idea is to have an inner circle of two – ten people who have impacted your life and passed on, circle around you in your mind while you express a challenge you need help with. Then sit quietly and listen to their council.

It takes practice to let go of your thinking and tap into a “sixth sense,” which Hill described as the portion of the subconscious mind called the Creative Imagination through which ideas, plans, and thoughts flash into the mind – sometimes called “hunches” or “inspirations.”

Such meetings have led me to some amazing paths of adventure, rekindled an appreciation for those who have impacted my life, left me with many creative insights, and inspired a deeper connection to the life I am meant to live.

How do we accept that we can’t do it all and prioritize what is truly essential?

I have been supporting a friend through the slow decline of her mother as they withdraw her life support. Dying has a powerful and uncanny way of slowing us down, getting our attention, and awakening us to what truly matters.

There is a lot of expectation and confusion about what is truly important in our lives. There are so many options. So many choices. So many “shiny objects” that call for our attention.

Here’s a few ideas to help live more simply in a complex world:

  1. Stop and get your bearings. It’s an old and ironic habit to run faster when we’ve lost our way. It is always good to shut off the noise, turn off technology, and create a space to be still and listen to the voice inside. Journaling, meditation, prayer, or walks in the woods are all good tools that provide beneficial medicine.
  2. Set your own goal for a good life. I honestly used to spend money I didn’t have, on things I didn’t need, to impress people I didn’t know. Resist the tendency to follow the crowd and decide what your values are and do your best to live your life in alignment with those values. An Australian nurse named Bronnie Ware cared for people in the last three months of their life and recorded their most often discussed regrets. At the top of the list: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
  3. Give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all. When you stop saying yes to everyone, you can make your highest contribution toward what truly matters. Be sure you are saying yes to truly matters to you.
  4. Bring a little more kindness into your world. Maybe the Beatles had it right. All you need is love. Striving for more, pushing for continual growth, getting more “stuff” does not make us any happier. Here’s a poem written by my favorite author, Anonymous: “I have wept in the night, at my shortness of sight, that to someone’s need was I blind. But I’ve never once had, a twinge of regret, for being a little too kind.”

Every decision we make brings us closer or further away from the life we want.

Do you agree or disagree?

If you agree, every decision becomes important, so how do we make the right ones?

The central purpose of my work is to help people connect with their true nature and express it consciously in their life and work.

I contend that the life we ultimately want is a life aligned with our true nature. Every decision we make takes us closer or further away from that life. We are born authentic, but the world tells us how we “should” be, so in order to feel safe we abandon our true self. I can’t imagine a sadder way to die than to realize you never showed up as your true self.

Authentic leadership is synonymous with being yourself, then creating environments where people can discover and express themselves. It’s that simple, and it’s that difficult.

Every time you make a choice you come closer or further away from yourself.

In the midst of all the noise, it is hard to tune in to the voice within, but living authentically is living consciously and deliberately. It starts by simply being still.

If you want to explore this concept further, check out my next complimentary webinar:
or the upcoming Authentic Leadership Academy:

A Firm Mind or an Infirm Mind

As I write this, it’s -40 degrees on the thermometer outside our kitchen window.

That’s what most of the Canadian Prairies have been dealing with this weekend. When I hear about cities running buses for homeless people to sleep in, I am filled with gratitude for having a warm home.

When I went to unplug and start my Jeep this morning, I forgot about the homeless people and found myself being cranky about the weather. And then I reminded myself that the weather doesn’t care about how angry I am that it’s cold.
And at that moment I reminded myself of something I learned years ago: there is a difference between a firm mind and an infirm mind – between being mentally strong and being mentally weak.

A firm, strong mind is about living aligned with your vision and the principles that guide your life. It’s about having an attitude toward life where your actions aren’t swayed by your external environment (like cold weather).

Steven Covey used to say that having a strong mind is ensuring that you have a private victory in the morning to set yourself up for a public victory later in the day. Getting into the gym on cold, dark Canadian mornings and on the yoga mat when I just want to crawl back into bed, is a strength to get me through this cold weather – and the challenges of life.

There is a reservoir of capacity that lies within us all. When I do something difficult each morning it helps me tap into this inner potential and provides a small private victory that enables me to serve and hopefully make the world just a little better by my actions throughout the day.

Looking at things objectively – It’s about awareness, ownership, and personal responsibility

As humans, we bring our moods, perceptions, and views of the world into our interactions. It could be imposing a tone on an email or making assumptions about what someone is asking. We might come to work in a bad mood after an argument with our spouse and take it out on a team member. Maybe we spend our weekends caring for a sick parent and come to work exhausted on a Monday morning.

So how do we stay objective and take bias out of the picture?

First of all you, realize that you can’t take bias out of the picture. We are never going to be 100% objective. This doesn’t mean we’re bad people. It means we’re human.

What we can do is become more self-aware and self-responsible. Acknowledge our biases and be more honest with ourselves and the people who depend on us. We can be aware of the impact of our biases and behavior and when we find ourselves in a bad mood, for example, stop and ask what the source of the irritability is. Is there something going on in your personal life? Are you taking care of yourself? Can you set the mood aside before work?

Once you get to the source of what’s bothering you, ask yourself what you can do to resolve it so you don’t take it out on people that have nothing to do with it. Do you need to make a call and settle things with someone directly? Do you need to get more rest or take better care of your mental or physical health? Do you need to simply let it go for the day and take care of it later, so you don’t contaminate your working relationships with people who have nothing to do with it?

It’s about awareness, ownership, and personal responsibility.