Values are at the very top of how we shape and perceive the world around us. Our values dictate everything that we do in our life, the actions that we take, what we have for lunch, what career we go into, the music we like, who we pick as a partner, our sense of justice, the list goes on and on.
If you’ve ever heard me speak or had a chat with me you will know that I believe it all comes down to our beliefs and values. They are the controlling force that gives us our motivation to do what we do. So when you look at your business or work life and you’re not getting the results you want, or maybe you’re miserable, it’s down to the values you have surrounding your career.
We also have a ‘modality’ of thinking around different areas of our lives (career, relationships, health/fitness, spirituality, personal growth and family). A way of being that is characterised by a few key elements. It’s these key elements that I want to focus on in this article and shed some light on how they might be affecting your career, both as employed and self-employed.
To look at these elements that are influencing our career we need to know about something called values level thinking (VLT) or spiral dynamics. Values levels are ways in which we prefer to think, they are themes which our values follow and so patterns of behaviour can be picked up from them. For the purpose of this article I want to focus on 3 of these themes, or values levels, which are levels 4, 5 and 6. Even though these values levels are identified by a number, it does not represent a hierarchy!
Value Level 4: Do the work now, get your reward later
This is where our society is right now! You go to work and at the end of the month you get your paycheck. Work the whole of your life and get a pension at the end. You must give what you have now and later you will be rewarded for your sacrifice. This values level can be judgemental as rules must be followed and there is no grey area. You are either right or wrong.
Value Level 5: Win – win
In this values level people want their rewards now instead of waiting for them. They like win-win situations and work hard for their rewards now. They consider the outcome of their actions and they want the best that is out there! They can often be quite materialistic in their pursuits. This values level can be compared to an entrepreneurial attitude.
Value Level 6: Do the work now, get the acceptance (yourself or others) now
These are the people that takes everyone’s opinion into account and will make a decision based on keeping everyone happy. The focus is on how they are internally and not so much on getting results or driving external rewards. They often associate with others’ issues and trauma, and empathise with others points of view.
You might be sitting there, reading this article, and some people might be popping into your head. People you can match up to these brief statements of the values levels. Here we have 3 of many levels and these are the ones which I have seen most commonly in a business context. They are also the values levels that I feel interchange the most. They are themes that people carry into their career and create an impact on how they operate within that career.
All of these values levels are important and they are all useful to us in different circumstances. However, our default way of thinking might not be the most useful one that we could be using in that area of our life. For example, say you’ve been in full-time employment for 20 years, you follow the rules to the letter and you have always been happy with the concept of getting your paycheck at the end of the month after you’ve done your work. You’ve just been made redundant and now you think you should set your own business up. You need money and you’ll get more time flexibility to see your family more, fantastic! You set up your business and find there isn’t a step by step guide of rules to follow when building your business. You’ve flown through the initial steps of setting up with HMRC, taking accounts, etc. but now you’re struggling with getting clients through the door. Can you see how the level 4 theme was useful in the old job but now that same theme isn’t very helpful in the new scenario?
We must be able to identify what values level we operate under in that area of our life and either play to its strengths or know how to change it.
The thing about values and values level thinking is that we aren’t consciously aware that we are doing it all the time. Sure, we might catch ourselves here and there but our behaviour and the actions we do are ultimately driven by our unconscious mind. That’s where all these complex programmes are plugged in and it’s executing each one to give us the behaviour it says we should be doing. This is why some of us are great at building businesses, or some of us intuitively connect with people, or can effortlessly balance books. Our values, values level thinking and beliefs are the right programs to give us those results. If we don’t have the right programs we have to work harder to learn those skills and tweak these programs to get the results, we want.
Maybe you can see which out of this selection you might be. Remember these are just a selection of the most common values levels I see in business right now. (For more on VLT click here).
Wouldn’t it be useful to be more aware of the strengths and weaknesses that you have and to be able to understand how to get the results you want? When I discovered values level thinking it gave me a new lense to look through and I hope that you might find the same. Becoming more self-aware and learning where you can execute the best is always a bonus. We should all be playing to our strengths. Going one step further, I feel that we should learn how to forge our own strengths, pursue our passions and utilise our full potential.