Saturday, February 5, 2011

Why Core Values Matter

Let me begin with my story. It was around the beginning of my junior year at UBC (University of British Columbia). You know that if you are a Commerce student, this is arguably the most critical year – a key stepping stone, if you will – in accelerating your professional career. Around junior year, most students come to this realization and start to frenetically attend multiple conferences, network like crazy, and embark on their job hunting journey. I was one of those students trying to find a way in to the corporate world and fight my way up the hills of the Great Recession. I cannot speak for others, though I presume a vast majority of them may share similar sentiments, but the journey I embarked on was difficult and onerous yet highly rewarding.

I simply cannot forget the countless hours spent in preparing for student-club and job-related interviews. It was a strenuous and time-consuming. I think I interviewed around 15 times during my entire university career. I would characterize the first half of my interviews weak and incomplete. As I became more serious about my professional endeavours in Human Resources, it suddenly dawned on to me the utmost importance of interviews. The fact of the matter is your entire image, perception, and future is created in 60-minutes or less.

Most companies employ behavioural questions since it’s widely known as the most valid and reliable measure of high performance and success in your job. However, I wanted to start with the basics – the foundation. First, I attempted to answer the foundational questions such as:
“What’s your greatest strengths and weaknesses?”
“Why do you want this job?”
“Why should we hire you?”

The most profound question I encountered  was, “What would be written on your epitaph at the end of your life?”

I found myself dumbfounded as I began to dribble nonsense on these ‘simple’ questions…. Consciously thinking and articulating my underlying values and beliefs was something unprecedented. I came to the conclusion that I lacked self-awareness.

When you come to think of it, the notion of an interview is quite simple. It’s about a dialogue between two parties who don’t know each other. It’s about telling your story and connecting it to the other party. Sounds easy, doesn’t it.. Now, who doesn’t dread interviews…The reason there is such fear is the lack of certainty and familiarity of who are we and what we stand for. Sounds crazy, but it’s quite true.

I felt worse and worse as I found myself struggling to answer even these simple questions. As days passed by, I wasn’t feeling any better either. I had to directly confront this situation. So, I began to ask my family, friends, and acquaintances what they thought of me. I began recording their candid thoughts and perceptions on my strengths and weaknesses. I asked deeper and probing questions, and what led them to think and feel in a certain way. This wasn’t an easy process. The hardest part was allowing myself to be vulnerable. I had to completely expose myself I could not argue back. I only listened, listened, and listened.

Next, I compiled and analyzed their comments and began to compare it with my own thoughts. There were some differences and similarities. The more time I spent time in isolation reading the Bible, praying and thinking, I felt better about myself. I had a stronger grasp of what constitutes my identity. Eventually, I discovered a pattern, a common theme, from the results of this undertaking. I decided I was going to write it down and etch it in my heart. This culminated in the five core values. Core values are a series of words or phrases defining who you are and what you stand for. They represent the internal navigation system for your life and the filter through which you process all of life’s decisions. They are the values you would fight for and the attributes you hope others say about you in your absence or after your death. They become key elements of your personal brand and define your character.
So here’s my personal core values:
·      Faith
·      Serving Others
·      Excellence
·      Integrity
·      Continuous Learning

All of this took about a year or so. The journey isn’t over. In fact, it’s a life-long process. I found myself much more confident, renewed, strengthened, now. One way I try to keep myself intact is writing a journal few times a week. This quiet time allows you to meditate and refine your thoughts and worldview.

Your Story:

So, now it’s your turn. What are your core values? Are you certain of who you are, what you stand for and believe? Everyone goes through this process and the earlier, the better. “With your values prioritized, you will see advantages when it comes to making decisions, too. Roy Disney once said, “It's not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” All jobs entail tradeoffs. Do you crave more prestige, higher pay, a chance to help others, increased job security, more variety, increased risk, and more independence? You may want them all, but the chances are good that you can't have them all. You have to make tradeoffs. The way to do that is by assessing each desire in light of your core values. Your values won't change, but you will decide which ones are more important to you right now in your present circumstances. Ultimately, values provide guidelines for answering the question: “What is most important to me?” When it comes to your career, there is no question more important than that.”

I stumbled upon a blog from a Sauder alumnus and consultant Mike Desjardins who shared his story of core values. He gave a speech at UBC and a core values worksheet with step-by-step instructions. For those who are still in the process of discovering your core values, I highly recommend you to take this seriously and start thinking about your fundamental personal values. This will truly change your life. 

Here it is video: Core Values Video
Here is the worksheet: Core Values Worksheet

If you have previously established a set of core values for your life, would you please take a couple minutes to share the impact your core values have had on your life in the comments sections below this post.


Angie said...

Really enjoyed this post Paul.
Thanks for sharing this!
Pretty hard to come down to 5 with that worksheet.

Freelansir said...

Love this Paul - I'm thinking about EXACTLY this right now. Great post.

Mike Desjardins said...

Thank you for the mention. It's inspiring to read about how committed you are to your core values. You know my story and what can happen when we're not.

Ryan Hyunjoong said...

Thanks for the inspiring story of yours, paul. Look forward to hearing more stories :)

bob wang said...

Paul, That was awesome. Thanks again for inspiring me to figure who I am and what I stand for. I cannot seem to forget our conversation at My Local Cafe

Paul J. Sohn said...

Thank you so much friends for reading my articles. Your kind remarks truly mean a lot to me and is why I continue to write. Soli Deo Gloria

HYLee said...

I am always your fan and proud of you. I enjoy watching you and your journey

Tim Chan said...

Great post Paul. I'm inspired that you have, at a young age, thought through and identified your core values. Let me know next time you're in Vancouver, would love to meet up with you for a coffee

Paul J. Sohn said...

Apppreciate the kind words Tim. I am grateful to God who has illuminated my blindness and provided me with godly lenses to see what's most important in life. Thankfully, he has blessed me with inspiring and godly men. I hope I can continue to learn, grow, and witness in Christ. I will definitely let you know if I'm in town. Please let me know if you ever visit Portland, OR too!