Sarah Browning has been thinking about values and how important they remain when you work for yourself.
I’ve just finished a really fun piece of work with one of my clients where I’ve been involved with a consultation on organisational values. It’s been fun for many reasons: I’ve been travelling all over the UK; I’ve met lots of lovely people doing amazing roles; even when group participants disagreed with each other or with me, they were very considerate about it (“I disagree with you there, isn’t that funny?!”); and the process has been genuinely consultative, with the words and values changing in light of consistent feedback from staff and volunteers.
I work with charities and other not-for-profits, so the chances are that organisational values are fairly aligned with individuals’ values, in a way that perhaps they aren’t necessarily in the corporate world. But they are still organisational values and have to reflect the views of many others, not just one individual.
One of the many things that I appreciate about working for myself is that I get to set the values by which I work. A few years ago, before I became a freelancer, I took a personal development course that encouraged you to access your creativity to understand yourself better. This involved drawing and writing in a journal and following set exercises to get at the core of what is really important to you. One of the exercises was to make a six-pointed values star, showing the values that are important to you. I really enjoyed this exercise and easily identified the points on my star.
When I set up my own business a little while later, I figured that I ‘should’ have some organisational values. And then it dawned on me that all my personal values fit just as well in a business context: integrity; enthusiasm; connected; positive; supportive and reliable. The way I apply each one may be slightly different in a business and personal setting, but fundamentally I can still be me in any context.
I know I am not alone in having struggled with employers where the stated organisational values and the actions of individuals within the company don’t match. Now I am free to set my own organisational values and act accordingly, choosing work and clients that are a good fit and allow me to behave as me. My values star takes pride of place on my office wall, reminding me that these days I am free of the tension caused by words and actions that don’t match.
You can find Sarah Browning on her brand new website at Browning York, and on Linkedin here. She’s the host for KindredHQ’s first pop up coworking event in Reading at Reading Business Centre on the 12th February 2014.