What do you value_2129034_XS - CA value is a belief or philosophy that is held highly meaningful or critically important.  We all have values, whether we are consciously aware of them or not.  As we mature our experiences help you understand trough trial and error that certain things or ideas are more valuable or treasured than other things and ideas.   This maturation process of experiences helps us define our own personal set of values.  Values can be functional in that they are not well defined by the person, but nonetheless still drive behavior, or values can be developed through a process of definition, evaluation and selection.  Values can emerge from a common belief, such as hard work, being optimistic, or being on time.  Other core personal values can be more psychological, such as justice, empathy, or self-worth.

Functional Values and Defined Values

The function values that make up your belief system about who you are and how you ought to behave has been determined by everything that has happened to you in your life.  These functional values include influences from parents, family, religious experiences, friends, pees, education, and more.  Effective people recognize these environmental influences and move beyond functional to a defined set of clear, concise, and meaningful values, beliefs, and priorities.  An ineffective person has functional values, but they are often undefined thus causing the person to become confused about what is valued most.  That is why their behavior often lacks consistency and creates missed opportunities.

Personal and Organization Values

People have values and organizations have values. Indeed, unless an organization defines its values, communicates them to everyone concerned, and practices them on a daily basis, then the organization’s values default to a sum of what the employees practice each day.  The values practiced by employees may be effective toward the organization’s purpose, or they may not.   This is why it is important for organization to define, communicate, and practice a set of core values that supports its strategic purpose.

The same thing is essentially true for people.  Unless we define our own set of values, consider and ponder them on a personal level, and do our best to practice them each day, then we are like a sailing ship without a rudder that is tossed in any direction at sea.  This is to say that people without valued to drive their behavior can be tossed in the various directions of life.  Perhaps you have seen people like this who don’t know who they are, what they stand for, or where they are going.

Implementing values, either personally or organizationally, can be a source of great energy.  For an individual, committing to and applying personal values can be highly motivational.  Likewise, when organizations determine, adopt, and practice a core set of values, the workers become energized, along with customers, products and services.  Actually, in an organization that has defined, communicated, and practiced values everyone and everything associated with the organization feels the impact.

Step One – Define Your Values

To assist you in defining a set of core personal values, review the list below.  Select p to ten values that you believe best describes the person you want to be, not necessary the person you are.  Feel free to add any values of your own to the list.































Hard work




















Personal growth

Positive attitude




Problem solving











Social status












Step 2 – Eliminate

Carefully review the ten values you have identified.  Cross out any value that is a duplicate of another personal value.  Ensure that the list of values you create is clear to you, comprehensive in nature, and descriptive of the person you want to become.

Step 3 – Prioritize

Now that you have selected the personal values that best describe the person you want to be, arrange the values in prioritized order.  Some people find this step challenging, because the difference between value number 6 and 7 can be negligible, but nonetheless consider carefully what is most important to you, then second most important, third most important and so forth.

Step 4 – Share

With your set of values you are ready to share the list with someone who knows you ell.  The person can be family, friend, or business colleague: it matters that the person knows you well, and is open enough to provide honest feedback.

Share your list with the person and explain that the personal values listed represent the core driving forces of the person you would like to become.  Ask for feedback from the person.  Listen carefully to his or her comments.  Form a conclusion that the list you have created is practical, realistic and honest.


Part 2 – Next Steps

Above, I discussed how to develop a written list of core personal values.  The purpose of discussing values is to help people formulate a list of core personal values that can help improve personal effectiveness.  Interestingly enough, few people have actually taken the time to compile a list of value, so the exercise in the last article can be an excellent process for self-awareness and self-improvement.  Consider also that although people may say they have a defined set of values, but in fact may have never written them down, do not act in accordance with the stated values. In other words, a person’s functional values (actually how the person behaves) may be different than then person’s stated values.

Once defined, values can impact every aspect of a person’s life.  Values can help model both personal and professional behaviors.  They help with decision making, achieving results and building relationships.  Values are essential to prioritize daily work and home activities.  They are often the foundation or launch point for setting goals.

It is possible for people to energize their lives by defining and implementing a set of personal values.  Once meaningful values are identifies, strategies can be developed to implement them.  A determined effort to implement a set of core personal values is a prerequisite for personal achievement and success.

Functional Values

There is a highly beneficial exercise the helps define person’s functional values (actually how a person behaves, but not necessarily how the person might view his or her behavior).  If you are interested, follow along with the following steps.

Step One. There are 168 hours in a week.  Create a list of up to a dozen areas or categories where you allocate you time each week. The list needs to suit your life, but consider such categories as: sleeping, eating, exercise, family time, personal time, hobby, work, watching television, computer time, and so forth.

Step Two. For at least a week, preferably two or three weeds, keep track each day of how you invest your time.  Most people find that rounding off to the quarter of half-hour is easies.  It’s not uncommon for you daily category total to fall short of or exceed, 24 hours. If your category totals are less than 24 hours, add a category called Unaccounted Time where you can enter the missing or lost time.

Step Three. Now look at the titles of your categories.  The categories of sleeping, eating, and exercise could be, if you wish, combined into one general category titled Personal Health.  Look for other such possibilities to combine categories such as Work or Recreations.  Also consider that initially people don’t often choose a category that might best be called Serving Others.  If you have time serving others, consider it as a general category.

Step Four.  Once you can with reasonable certainty account for 168 hours each week arrange your categories in descending order (the category with the most hours to the category with the fewest hours).

Step Five. If you have not defined your personal core values into a specific list, then the categories identified and prioritized in Step Four are your Functional Values.  If you have a written list of values, compare it to your list of Functional Values.  How much difference is there?  If there are more differences, to what do you attribute them?


There are many fascinating aspects of human behavior.  One such aspect is that a significant number of people, and even companies, often construct a vision or impression of themselves in their minds that may or may not resemble reality.  For example, it is not uncommon for people when asked the question, “What is most important to you?” to quickly indicate that “family” and “children” are their highest priority.  Similarly, it’s not uncommon for executives and managers of an organization when asked, “What is the most important thing your company does?” to quickly indicate that “customer service” is the highest priority.

These statements give people comfort, because they are the right things to say.  They are usually self-serving and help create an appropriate self-impression.  The problem is “talk is cheap.”  The trusty is that although a person may say that spending time with family is the highest priority, and managers may say that customer service is important, the reality is that consistent daily behavior, where people invest their time, is what really determines what is truly important.  Values drive behavior, so there can be conflict between stated values, and actual, daily functional values.

Here is a case in point.  In a research study, it was determined that the average father in America spends about one minute each day giving meaningful feedback or communication to each of his children. Another study determined that fathers in the same age group watch an average of 25 hours and 39 minutes of television each week.  These numbers may be different for you, but on average they reflect fathers in America.  If these numbers are even partially accurate, how can a father list Family as the highest priority value, but invest more time each week watching television?  This is a prime example of the difference between Stated Values and Functional Values.

When you bring your daily behavior in line with your Stated Values, it is called accomplishment.  But when you fail to bring you rime each day in line with your Stated Values, it is called failure.

Companies that talk about customer service would do well to ensure that the talk is actually being reflected in the daily behaviors of its employees.  The actual state of customer service in an organization has little to do with what is said about it by managers and executives, but more about what is actually being done on a daily basis by the employees who have direct contact with customers.  Customer service is the quality of what happens in the interpersonal contact between employee and customer.  It is not a cute slogan the back of a vest, or a Value Statement posted on the wall.  This means that companies, just like people, can have a conflict between Stated Values and Functional Values.


Successful people just like successful companies “walk the talk.”  They define what they want and what they value, and then they discipline their daily lives to life up to those commitments.  Unsuccessful people just like unsuccessful companies lack the discipline to control their behavior, thus they are constrained to accept the consequences of the poor results they achieve.

Recommended For You:

Organizational Development and Effectiveness Services

Learn More

Professional Development Programs for Employees

Learn More
About the Author
Richard Williams, Ph.D.
Dr. Richard L. Williams has been a business consultant for over 40 years and has conducted more than 5,000 workshops to more than 350,000 managers and executives. Rick’s interests include maximizing human performance, team building, leadership development, executive coaching, process improvement, and instrumentation research and design. Rick has experience in working with a wide range of industries globally.

Get Exclusive Content Delivered Straight to Your Inbox

When you subscribe to our blog and become a CMOE Insider.

And the best part?

It's 100% free.