This is a guest post by Tim Brownson, who apparently couldn’t be arsed with putting in links or subheadings, so if he doesn’t like what I did with it, well… tough shit for him. Please note all the links below to his new book are affiliate links. Because I need beer money, of course.
Even though core values are highly subjective, contextual and almost entirely a product of our upbringing, I’m still fairly sure if I told you that on my blog I exercise core values of respect, integrity, excellence and communication you would be impressed.
After all, who doesn’t want to read a blog that strives for excellence, respects its readers, operates with integrity and values the fine art of communication?
In fact, who wouldn’t want to run their business in such a fashion? In the almost 20 years spent in corporate UK employed by some major blue chip organizations, I rarely saw such values demonstrated on a consistent basis.
And therein lies the problem. Telling people what you value either as a blogger or a business owner is not the same as living by your values.
The values I mentioned above were the ones adopted by Enron and plastered all over their corporate website and offices.
Now they don’t seem so genuine and appealing, do they?
Mission Statement Propaganda vs. Core Values
At this stage it would be easy to be cynical when looking at blogs and companies that claim to live by their values and jump to the erroneous conclusion they are just telling people what they want to hear.
I have no doubt that like mission statements and vision statements, value statements can, and in some cases are, written to mislead. But they can also be incredibly useful, especially for small business owners or people looking to profit from writing a blog.
Knowing your values allows you to make business decisions that are consistent with who you are as a person and how you want your blog to operate and be perceived by your readers.
I have done the exercise to help clients align themselves with their core values literally hundreds of times. But only recently have I started to do the same process for small business owners and bloggers and it’s proving incredibly valuable.
Not only does aligning with your business values give you a greater sense of purpose and increase your overall satisfaction levels, but it also allows you to get a clearer idea of what you ideal reader and client looks like, something that is crucial to your success.
For example, as a Life Coach I have inquiries from a broad spectrum of people, but I simply don’t have the desire to work with every person that contacts me. In my early days that wasn’t the case and presuming the person wasn’t obviously madder than a very mad March Hare I would take on more or less anybody willing to pay me.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that this approach wasn’t working with some clients and for one very specific reason.
How Misaligned Core Values Hurt Your Business
Even though my job is incredibly important to me I have to confess to not taking life itself very seriously and humor and fun are core values of mine. Whenever I took on a client in the early days that didn’t share my playful attitude and left field sense of humor it always seemed like a slog. It seemed like hard work and I almost never got in the flow.
About three years ago I made the decision that if I was suspicious that a client wouldn’t be fun to work with and I knew they found me through either a referral or directly from a Google search, I’d ask them to go and check out my blog.
This was a calculated risk because I knew there was a chance I would never hear from them again. Like Michael, I don’t pull any punches with my blog writing and use a lot of humor, forthrightness and even sprinkle in the occasional ‘F’ Bomb.
Some people (rightly or wrongly) believe that’s not a very professional approach to Life Coaching and this was my way of weeding those people out. If you are going to get all huffy and offended because I think most self development gurus suck, or because I swear, or heaven forbid I quote Monty Python, then I was never the right Life Coach for you in the first place.
There are a number of values that come up more than others. I’m far more likely to see ‘significance’ than ‘justice’ and ‘connection’ is mentioned more often than ‘spirituality’ when it comes to blogging.
Also you probably won’t be surprised to hear that ‘honesty’ appears on the vast majority of clients lists.
The Bullshit of Honesty
Just lately though I have been wondering if bloggers that claim honesty as a core value aren’t just setting themselves up for a fall. That like stability and security, total honesty is largely an illusion in modern society.
I had cause to phone the technical support department of a large computer manufacturing company recently. In fact I had to call them several times and every single time I got the message that they were experiencing a higher than normal call volume, and as such, my wait time would be over 15 minutes.
I hear this message a lot from all types of business and I’ve heard it at almost every time of day too. I often wonder:
“What is a normal call volume?”
The definition of normal is something that is typical, average or expected. Therefore, you can’t have something be abnormal if it’s happening frequently.
I also hear the message, “Please listen carefully as our menu options have recently changed” quite a lot and I know one business that has had that same message for well in excess of a year.
What does recently mean? A week, a month, a year?
Get Your “House” in Order
I love the TV program ‘House’ and especially the eponymous character played by the excellent and highly sarcastic, Hugh Laurie.
It seems that after almost every episode the trailer for the following weeks program tells me something along the lines of, “You will not believe what happens next week in House’s most challenging case to date”.
The weird thing is I always do believe what happens. I can’t ever remember the end of an episode and turning to my wife and saying “I don’t believe that, do you?”
And usually the cases are similarly challenging with House getting an insight into the problem 5 minutes before the end after broad-spectrum antibiotics and a diagnosis of Lupus has failed for the 73rd consecutive patient.
You may think the examples above are trivial, and in many respects you would be right, because in the great scheme of things they are, but they also undermine credibility and confidence.
If honesty is genuinely a core value of yours rather than something you want people to think is a core value, then do everything in your power to demonstrate brutal honesty and let the chips fall where they may.
Don’t slide in affiliate links without telling people. Don’t promote clients without full disclosure. And above all, don’t try and pretend you have skills and abilities that you really don’t possess.
Sure, like I did with my client approach, you may lose a few bucks in the short-term, but in the long-term you build credibility and authority.
The Upside of Core Value Alignment
And the upside of operating within your values (whatever they are, because honesty actually may not be that important to you) is absolutely huge.
You know where you stand. Your readers know where you stand. And most importantly, your potential customers know where you stand. Those that admire your values will soon move from potential customers to customers, to rabid flag waving fans.
Not a bad return for simply being the person you already are.
About the Author: Tim Brownson is a Life Coach and NLP Master Practitioner who has been unsticking people for 7 years. You can check out his blog at A Daring Adventure. If you would like to know more about aligning your core values click the link.
Note from Michael: I’ve been through Tim’s core values alignment exercise and I have to say it’s an eye-opener. Living in misalignment with your values is a constant source of unrecognized stress in life. To discover your own core values and live in alignment with them, you should get Tim’s book.