When working to improve your brand, it’s crucial to remember that your personal branding includes your personal values. I’m talking about those firmly embedded beliefs that you’ve had since childhood. These are a foundational element upon which to build an authentic personal brand that resonates with others. When people don’t know what you stand for, it’s harder for them to stand by you.
Your Values Determine Your Actions
One of my clients recently had an experience that put her personal values to the test. She was working for a new, direct-sales company when a member of her down-line noticed a steep drop in product quality and called her for advice. Unsure of how to handle the situation, she set up a conference call with her down-line and the CEO.
When my client told the CEO that she believed the factory was at fault and asked how she should handle quality issues, he rudely cut her off and said that the factory “didn’t make mistakes”. He blamed her down-line for ordering incorrectly and in the process made this woman feel small and stupid. My client refused to stand by and accept this behavior. She jumped in and said, “Even if she did make an error; you cannot talk to her that way.” Her personal values told her that this is unacceptable behavior, especially in a leadership role.
Why It’s Important to Define Your Values
We all grew up in families that had a specific set of values. Maybe you attended church as a child and followed the ‘Golden Rule’. Maybe your parents taught you to respect your elders or to always speak up for yourself. Unfortunately, when we head off into the workforce, the dominant corporate culture can often override many of our foundational beliefs.
My client knew that if she didn’t say something to her CEO, she would be compromising her belief in the need for fairness and respect. It didn’t matter to her that he was the head of the company; she had to speak up.
For some people, trust is a significant value. They need to believe that their higher-ups have confidence in their abilities. Others place a high value on communication. If they can’t speak openly at work, their performance and satisfaction suffer.
If you’ve lost sight of what you stand for, Google the word “values”. Read through a few lists, then make your own with the words that intuitively strike you.
What to Do When Your Values Are Tested
The best approach is to speak up. However, confronting the problem (or offending a person) may not always be possible or advisable. If you can’t take immediate action, here are some tips to get you through:
- Consider all the moving parts: Ask yourself, “What is great about this position?” Maybe you love your clients, the actual work, or the paycheck. Perhaps, you can’t stand your CEO, but your direct supervisor is fantastic. If you’re happy in general, it might be worth sticking it out.
- Keep a tally of what’s going on: Document everything! Make a note of every troubling instance and make sure to include a date. Don’t gossip, but if other people are complaining, document what they say as well.
- Take it to another level: Take your concerns to someone you trust. HR reps will generally be required to keep what you tell them confidential. Get everything off your chest so that you’re not bottling things up.
- Keep calm and carry on: This is easier said than done, but do your best. When someone tests your values, smile, take a breath, go back to your desk and document the event.
- Start looking for some other form of employment: When all else fails, start the process to find a new job.
Be True to Yourself
When in doubt, listen to your intuition. Your gut will always tell you what you need to know. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If you do, you’re going to be fighting the whole time. Remember, your personal branding includes your personal values
If you need a little help in defining your personal brand, seeking clarity of your personal values or need to talk through a situation, I’m here to help. Contact me today and together we will find a solution to the issue you are facing.