Dec 08 2020| Leadership | values
by Phil Eyre Founder
2020 has been a demanding year and, with the further challenges posed by Brexit, the global economic fallout from the pandemic and unknowns we can’t yet see, the pace of pressure and change is set to continue.
Personally, I’m grateful not to have lost family or friends to the pandemic, despite one scary moment, nor indeed to other illnesses. Nevertheless, the pressures have felt real and at times intense. Applying my personal values has been crucial; of course, I’ve not always managed this perfectly, but these values have proven an essential guide.
My four personal values, each a continuing work in progress, are:
Pride goes before a fall, as the saying goes. I prefer the Biblical original, ‘First pride, then the crash. The bigger the ego, the harder the fall.’ (Proverbs 16v18). In my early career, I felt that I had mastered humility (can you see the problem there?!). In fact, my blindness to my own arrogance created a crash-type situation in my 20s that jolted me back to reality.
No one is better than another, there’s little of genuine value that we achieve on our individual merits; pride, arrogance and conceit ruin relationships and create blindness to risk. I’ve made it a life mission to pursue humility, looking out for hints of pride and taking active steps to serve others; I invite feedback (and listen to it) and remove myself from the limelight when needed.
Like many others, my work practically stopped overnight with the onset of lockdown. One of my initial responses was ‘poor me’, a form of pride (false humility is just another form of ego). For a thankfully brief moment, I was tempted to indulge the pity party and entertain the belief that my purposeful work was over. I took stock, re-read the vision notes I made for my work last year, reminded myself of the whole purpose of the work (‘so that every workplace is a place where people thrive’). This helped me to focus on using the free time to develop and finish the design of a new Leadership Development Programme with Dr Chuck Coker. We launched in the summer and are now running with three clients in Guernsey; the open course launches January 26th, find out how to join in.
Pride nearly took hold later in the year, when a UK-based client asked me to step in to replace a consultant who wasn’t quite delivering what they needed. Having previously worked with this company, they knew my approach and had given me a flattering label. Talk about an ego boost! All my pride signals leapt and I chose to dampen down the response and focus instead on serving them to my utmost. Pride would say I can afford to get away with just enough (‘they already think I’m great’); humility calls me to go above and beyond.
Doing the right thing has, I think, always been important to me, perhaps part of my natural character and certainly attributed to my upbringing (with thanks to my parents). It’s not always made me the most popular person and I’ve not always got it right, but nevertheless integrity is important. For me, integrity has six characteristics:
As we emerged from lockdown, I had the opportunity to engage with a new client, working consistently with the leadership team to change the culture of the organisation. This is precisely why I do the work that I do, a potentially perfect client. My heart should have leapt. But it didn’t. My senses told me to back off and even after some reflection I remained disconnected. The client remained keen to work together, but I knew that I needed to turn down the opportunity, even though my business balance sheet would have benefitted. The client wasn’t happy with my decision, but it was a point of integrity to hold on to my choice.
Wisdom is ‘sound judgement based on knowledge, experience and understanding’. I highly value the people in my life who bring wisdom and insight to me. In turn, I keenly want to be a similar source of insight to others. I’ve learnt that this requires mastery, which in turn requires focus (it’s rare to be able to master many things).
In this current phase of working life, I’ve chosen to master applying insight from psychometrics, investing time learning from grandmasters in the field and applying what I’ve learnt - at every opportunity - to my work. I’ve also learnt that everyone is their own expert and my role is often (simply) to listen and reflect back, helping others to clarify their own judgement.
The ethos of spending resource on learning from people who are truly great at what they do - is wisdom. It ensures that I can focus on my areas of mastery whilst benefitting from other people’s expertise. In the short term this comes at a cost, but I’m convinced that the long-term financial benefits are significant. Certainly, the benefits to my own health, wellbeing and enjoyment of my work are tangible.
I’ve realised that I need a tactic to ensure this learning isn’t neglected. I’m busy (and grateful for that) and recognise that I’m not spending as much time learning and thinking as I’d like. From the New Year, I’ve set aside designated and regular ‘time to think’ in my diary, during daytime when I’m at my best, rather than relying on lower quality time (when I’m tired) for thinking. This time will be protective; the very point at which I’m tempted to give it up to fit in client work is the very point I need the time to think.
I added joy to my personal values early in the year. I like to enjoy life, I’m usually quite energetic and (hopefully) full of fun. As I get a little older and during a difficult year for everyone, I’m learning that there’s more to joy than an energetic ‘high-five’ approach to life. It’s possible - and valuable - to remain joyful even in the midst of difficulty. I’m especially enjoying Ingrid Fetell Lee’s work in this field (see www.aestheticsofjoy.com).
I enjoy being with my friends and family. As I write this, I have to acknowledge that I’ve made far less time to enjoy people over the last few months than I should have. I can blame my work, but fundamentally I’ve let time run away and not prioritised enjoying some of the most important people in my life. As well as making time to think, I’m setting aside ‘time for fun’ in my diary, deliberately during the working week, not relying solely on weekends and evenings. This will be time with friends/close family - breakfast, lunch - as well as healthy and joyful activity - exercise, enjoying the sunshine when it arrives!
I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunity to be tested and grow over the months and years ahead. Being clear about my values will help me to focus on the right areas and make the best choices. I would encourage you to reflect on your own values and how these can guide you through the challenges ahead.