Values in Leadership Decisions

Episode 112 of the Lead from Anywhere podcast discusses the importance of making values-aligned leadership decisions. I share a very personal story of how my small business almost closed because of decisions I made that weren’t aligned with the company’s values. I also share a 5-step process to help you start making values-aligned leadership decisions.

Values-Aligned Leadership Decisions – Listen Now!

Leadership Decisions & Personal Values

I’ve talked quite a bit about making the best decision for the most people, but another question to ask yourself, when making a decision, is if that decision is in line with your values. Your organization’s values and your own personal values.

Great leaders make decisions that align with their values. You and I – we want to make the right decisions – all leaders do. Of course, this starts with KNOWING your values, and I’ll do another podcast about that later on. You likely know at least one or two of your team’s values, so we’ll make that assumption today.

The best way I can illustrate this for you is to share a personal story about it. A story about the time my company almost went out of business because I was making decisions that went against our values.

In mid-2018, I was miserable at work. I had 2 awesome employees, but I think they were lost for direction, mainly because I didn’t have any direction to give them. I was lost, too.  My coach and mentor, Angie Stegall, helped me get to the root of my misery. I was making decisions for my company that were not aligned with my values.

When you run a small business, your personal values and your company’s values overlap quite a bit. One of my personal values is that I feel that relationships are always more important than money. But I had made my business focused entirely on money – from what I talked about in meetings, to the of clients we worked with. I had become a greedy leader, which is the complete opposite of who I really am – a generous person. My own greed led to attracting really greedy clients.

I had accidentally created a culture of greed.

Now – ONE purpose of business is to make money – yes. But for me, that can’t be the only reason I work for anyone (even if it’s working for myself).
So I had violated my generosity and “relationships before money” values in a big way. And anyone who was in the BeeSmart ecosystem at that time was suffering for it.

Getting Back to Values-Aligned Leadership Decisions

It took about 2 years to dig myself, my team, and my business out of this to be in a much better place in 2020. We started almost right away, after the realization in 2018, but we didn’t get back to where we needed to be for almost 2 years. There were several times we almost had to close our doors. We lost many of those greedy clients, but weren’t bringing in values-aligned clients as quickly as we needed to in order to replace that revenue.

The business I invested 10 years building almost went OUT of business because I didn’t make values-aligned leadership decisions.

I went into debt – I drained my personal savings – because I had come this far and I wasn’t going to give up. I owed it to myself and to my team to see if, once we got the back to making values-aligned decisions, once we were values-aligned. The good news is, we did grow again, we turned things around. We’re still making changes; I’m still in debt. And it was worth it. Because we can all see now that we’re building something that is aligned with the values and THAT has made us a much better company all around – which is a company that our ideal clients WANT to work with.

How to Make Values-Aligned Leadership Decisions

Looking back, if I had just made decisions along the way that stayed true to my personal and business values of generosity and relationships before money, we wouldn’t have gone through it. But that’s the hell in the hallway greed can produce. You make decisions focused only on making more money, and you end up with one door slamming in your face, in a dark hallway, with no idea when or where the next door or window will open.

So how do you make sure you’re making values-aligned, leadership decisions? Here’s your homework:

1.  Identify your own personal values first. Write them down. Ask friends and family if you’re unsure of what they are.
2.  Practice living your values in your personal life first. Do you value generosity? Volunteer time or donate money to a worthy cause. Value transparency? Tell your friend or partner that really hard thing about something you did that you aren’t really proud of.
3.  Then, determine, or re-learn your organization’s or team’s values. If you can, work with your employees to determine and define them.
4.  Once you have them, look back at some recent, big decisions, and see which were in alignment and which weren’t. Write down the decision, which value it was in (or out) of alignment with, and why. If it wasn’t in alignment, ask yourself what the decision should have been, to be values-aligned.
5.  Finally, before making the big decisions – ask yourself, “Is this in alignment with our values?” Ask your team, too.

You and I – we’re not perfect. We’re on this journey together, and we’re going to make decisions that are not values-aligned. It happens. However, if half the decisions you make are values-aligned, if you put that thought into it, you’re going to be a much better leader. And you’ll make decisions you and your team can be proud of.