A few weeks ago, I was confronted with a tough decision around my core values.
In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t a big deal, but that didn’t stop it playing on my mind for 24 hours. Deep down I instinctively knew what the right decision was, but I still wrestled with two choices; the easy wrong one or the tough right one?
I’ve just taken on a new project with a new client. As with every piece of work I do, my goal is to be of total service to the client and deliver 10 times more value than they expected. We’re in the very early stages of the project, which is not dissimilar to those giddy first few weeks when you’re dating somebody new; you’re keen to impress and show your very best side.
Basically, I screwed up my diary management and missed one of the project calls.
I’d been to my office super early to prepare for and run a team development session for an executive team on Zoom, before heading home around 10:30 to take over from my wife with home schooling our daughter. Like many working parents, we’ve both got really busy jobs so life’s a real juggle during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Whilst I was busily working on some maths with my eight-year-old daughter I completely missed the call and only realised when my colleague called to check if I was ok.
She’d covered for me on the call saying that the session I was running must have run over, which the client was totally fine with. It still made me feel a little sick though, to be honest. I pride myself on my timekeeping and organisational skills.
We agreed that I didn’t need to apologise to the client or do anything else. It was ‘no biggy’.
It continued to run through my mind for the rest of the day though, because not acting was at odds with one of my core values. Integrity, or doing the right thing even when nobody is watching, is fundamental to me.
In the end, I ‘fessed-up’.
I emailed the client to apologise for missing the meeting, explaining that whilst I had been running a session for another client, that wasn’t why I missed the meeting. I’m pretty sure they appreciated my honesty.
I’m no saint though and I certainly don’t get this right all the time. My values are there to guide me and exist as the standard that I strive to live up to. My experience tells me that by working hard to stay true to my values and make the right calls when there’s little at stake, I’m able to strengthen my mental muscles for the big moral decisions when they come.
This is why I believe getting clear on our core values is some of the most important work we can do as a leader. Having clarity around our core values is the essential precursor to consistency of action.
And without consistency, people will not trust or follow us.