My clients want to become better advocates for their teams, their ideas, their products or their bank accounts. They come to me to learn how to build credibility, use evidence, ask better questions, hone their body language/tone of voice and argue if necessary. And I give them the tools to become an extraordinary advocate. But we begin with their core values. Because when you know your core values, your choices become clear and your wins become easy.
Core values are the foundation upon which we build our choices, our actions and our results. In my keynotes I share the 5 Cs of an Advocate — Connection, Compassion, Creativity, Curiosity and Credibility. Those are the core values of an advocate, the foundation upon which they build their ask. And 3 of those are my core values as well. Compassion, Curiosity and Credibility are my core values. They are my touchstones, the three things I measure every decision and every action by, and they help me advocate to win.
I use these core values every day. I use them to decide who to hire, whether to take on a project, whether to work with an individual, when to stay and when to go. They guide everything. But that’s not the most important reason to have core values. The most important reason is to overcome self doubt.
Much of my work is helping my clients doubt more and believe less. We all have self doubt and it won’t ever be completely eradicated. But there are proven tools that can help. And one involves knowing and using your core values. When women know and reflect on their core values before a competitive business endeavor, they do better. And many believe this is because they have less self doubt.
In this study, Zoe Kinias and Jessica Sim took female MBA students and separated them into 2 groups. One reflected on and wrote about their personal values before taking exams and making presentations. The other reflected on and wrote about institutional values. In the group that reflected on institutional values, there was a gender gap in GPA, with the women performing worse than men. In the group that reflected on their personal core values, there was no gap.
Kinias and Sim attributed this difference to participants having less self doubt and more self worth after reviewing their values. And that surely helped. But I also believe that reviewing the values helped the women to remove themselves from the equation. When I’m advocating for Curiosity, Compassion and Credibility it’s a lot easier than when I’m advocating for me. We know that women are phenomenal advocates for others and less so for themselves. Maybe the women in this study were suddenly advocating for their values. And that allowed them to win.
So I encourage you to take the time to know and own your core values. Reflect on them, write on them, commit them to heart. If you have trouble coming up with them, begin by brainstorming all of the words/qualities that most resonate with you. Come up with at least 10 words. Then see where those words have overlap. For example, when I decided on my core values I came up with kindness, love, connection, caring and ability to see through other’s perspective. These all overlapped with one overriding word — compassion. That, therefore, became one of my core values.
Do the work to know your core values. Then reflect on them before you advocate for yourself. See yourself as advocating for those core values. You might find that you begin to doubt less and believe more. My definition of win is always the Cambridge Dictionary definition “to receive something positive because you’ve earned it”. You might receive better grades, more compensation, more clients, better culture and happier team mates if you earn it by knowing and living your core values.