Have you watched Simon Sinek’s TED Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action?” If you are intrigued by Sinek’s concept of the Golden Circle, then you’ll want to read his book, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.

I just finished Start With Why and there is a particular passage from Sinek’s book that had me assessing everything I thought I knew about core values:

We remind ourselves of our values by writing them on the wall…as nouns. Integrity. Honesty. Innovation. Communication, for example. But nouns are not actionable. They are things. You can’t build systems or develop incentives around those things. It’s nearly impossible to hold people accountable to nouns…For values or guiding principles to be truly effective, they have to be verbs. It’s not innovation, it’s look at the problem from a different angle.

-Simon Sinek, Start With Why

On my About Me page, you’ll notice I include my core values:

  • Creativity
  • Empowerment
  • Hard-Work
  • Loyalty
  • Leadership

I chose these core values during my time at the LeaderShape Institute in October 2015. Since then, I haven’t evaluated or reflected much on them. I mean, I know WHY I want to live my life according to these values. But I haven’t given much thought to HOW I can confirm my daily thoughts and actions align with my values. After reading Start With Why, I found out HOW – it starts with expressing my core values as verbs, not nouns.

Articulating our values as verbs gives us a clear idea how to act in any situation. We can hold each other accountable to measure them or even build incentives around them. Telling people to have integrity doesn’t guarantee their decisions will keep customers’ or clients’ best interests in mind; telling them to do the right thing does.

-Simon Sinek, Start With Why

Hopefully after reading that, you’re ready to express your core values as verbs. It shouldn’t be too difficult, right? Right. Here’s how I did it.

Close your eyes. Seriously. Close your eyes and envision a “Core Values Guidebook.” You pull out this physical manual when you face a dilemma that involves one (or more) of your core values.

At the top of each page is a core value written in a bold, big font. Underneath is a simple value statement. The sentence captures how that specific core value comes alive and applies to your work, play, service, relationships, health, and finances. Whatever phrase popped into your head – that’s your value statement (and most likely, it uses at least one verb).

This was an interesting exercise because when I evaluated my current list of personal values, it actually needed an update. So now my core values look like this:

Creativity

Embrace playfulness, initiate challenges, and pursue curiosity.

Empowerment

Uplift others through influence, education, and engagement.

Compassion

Put empathy into action.

Leadership

Lead with integrity, promote gratitude, and never stop learning.

Hard-Work

Do all that I can, the best that I can.

Friendship

Show up. Actively practice wholehearted living.

 

Core values as verbs can act like a compass in hand
When we express our core values as verbs, they act like compasses to lead us in the right direction when making decisions.

 

Not only are these value statements actionable, but they are measurable. I can take these values and reword them as questions to ask myself when making daily decisions. For example,

  • Am I doing all that I can, to the best of my ability?
  • Can I use this as an opportunity to challenge myself?
  • Did I use this opportunity to put empathy into action?
  • Did I act with integrity in that situation?
  • How can I use my current position to uplift others through influence, education or engagement?
  • Am I consistently showing up in this current friendship? What aspect of wholehearted living is missing from this particular relationship?

With my core values expressed as verbs instead of nouns, the next step is to re-visit my personal mission and vision statement! But that’s another blog post 🙂

Take some time this week to articulate your core values with verbs, and note how you feel afterwards. If you give it a try, let me know in the comments below!