This is the time of year when we reflect on our lives and our work to determine if we’re on the right path. One of the important elements that may feel more subliminal than intentional to people is if you are living your life in alignment with your core values. There is no “one-size-fits-all” set of values that suits everyone. Each of us is unique and needs to spend time contemplating what is truly important to us. A commonality among HFMA members may be responsibility; feeling that others are counting on you to do things right. The health care field often attracts people who value service to others. Our values affect how we approach situations, our careers, and our lives. Fully living your values means your life is congruent with what you say are your top priorities. Does your calendar reflect what you deem most important? One person who values family may show it by working long hours to provide for the family, whereas another may schedule work commitments around his or her children’s events and sports to be present.
As an executive coach, it is essential to get clear about which values my clients hold as most important. My goal is to help the client live more harmoniously and to make decisions in alignment with his or her values, so the first step is understanding what he or she values.
I was coaching a healthcare controller, Melissa*, who enjoyed her job and was good at it. She peaked in her organization, and we spent time discussing how she could position herself for a promotion to a larger role in the area. As we got clear on her values, two that were very important to her were family and leisure time. Ultimately, she decided to stay put and be content rather than ambitious. Why? Her current job was two miles from home, and the short drive meant she could make dinner, spend time with those she loved, and enjoy playing tennis on a regular basis. Adding an extra eight to 10 hours per week commuting would have significantly changed her lifestyle. She also realized the promotion would have meant more working hours and less leisure time. Someone who values learning, growth, or adventure might have opted for the new role.
Last year I coached a nonprofit healthcare CFO, Heather*, whom the board tapped to become the next CEO. Her core values centered on integrity, dedication, responsibility, competition, contribution, learning, authenticity, and nature. There were several vacancies on the senior leadership and mid-level management team that needed to be filled. She scouted for the right people who could take the organization to the next level. She drove her staff to work hard, improve performance, and serve their clients. She arranged for leadership development sessions to enable her leaders to provide the best results possible for the organization, its clients, and employees. To burn off stress, she hiked and ran. The decisions she made clearly reflected her core values. Her leaders thrived.
I’ve had the privilege of working with many organizations to create their core values. It’s essential for personal and career happiness that your core values are in alignment with your organization’s values. For example, if your organization values compassion and your top value is productivity, you may feel frustrated with decisions that care for employees or patients over profit or margin.
What Happens When You’re Not Living Your Values?
We often hear about people who try to be someone they are not, trying to fit in. If that forces you to go against your values, you may not like the person you become. It can feel like selling a piece of your soul. Years ago, I was working for a defense contractor in supply chain. We were notified that there was an upcoming government compliance audit and were preparing for it. My boss asked me to go through stacks of noncompliant documents to backdate and “tweak” them so we wouldn’t be adversely affected in the audit.
This request went against my core values of integrity, honesty, and authenticity, and I refused. It may have hurt my career in that department, but shortly thereafter, I received a promotion to another department. I pondered whether could I live with knowingly taking an action that violated federal law and compromised my core values. Large scandals start with small decisions and compound over time. How could others trust me? How could I trust myself to make future decisions if my values were easily compromised? Your actions speak louder than your words—are they congruent with your core values?
Have you spent much time in self-reflection? Not sure what your next career step will be or how to get there? Coaching is a great way to discover what you really want and to create a plan to achieve it.
*Names changed to protect confidentiality.
Joanne Schlosser, FACHE, MBA, PCC, provides executive and team coaching and leadership development programs that develop leaders for health care’s changing landscape. She can be reached at [email protected] , (480) 840-6024, or www.RisingStarsLLC.com . She also leads the Arizona Institute for Healthcare Leadership.