The entire interview was interesting, partly because Adam Silver very rarely gives public interviews, but mostly because he seems like such a very smart person; one who is grounded in common sense. The thing that stood out for me was his description of the philosophy of the NBA around these issues. He explained that the NBA organization has a set of clear values they operate by. They include things like tolerance, inclusion and respect.
Only three months into his term, he banned the LA Clippers owner, Donald Stirling, from the league for life because of racist comments he made. This swift, clear, firm action by Silver set the tone. Clearly, the values the league ascribed to, were in fact going to be the values the league lived by.
This spoke to me. It aligns perfectly with one of the most basic teachings in coaching; that being that organizations and individuals, both create the best opportunity for a rich, successful and satisfying life when we identify our values, and align our actions with them.
A value is something of worth. It is something we cherish. It is something we would fight to keep in our lives. It is something we are willing to make sacrifices for. A value, what we value, tells the world what we believe is important in life.
Often when I work with an organization, a group or an individual, I ask them to identify their values. Using the case of individuals (although the process is the same for organizations), I have them list as many of their values as they can. Given a few prompting questions, most people can easily come up with 25 – 50 values.
Once the list is established, I have them identify their top three values. Any number can be used but three gives enough of the experience that most people are able to generalize it to the other important values they may have. With the three values, I ask them the following, ‘How fully are you honouring these values in your life right now?’
This is usually the silence-maker.
All of us have values we can identify. All of us like to believe we model our values every day. All of us believe our values are worth fighting for. What I love to think about is this: If other people saw each of our values as a coin, when they picked up each coin, would they find it to be pure gold or gold-plated?
I, of course, love to imagine that my values are pure gold. And if this is truly the case, I know that sometimes I do not give them the treatment they deserve.
So often, we claim to value a particular thing. We insist this is our top value. We would fight for this value. And yet, many, many times, we push our values aside on our road to something else. I have listened to the silence of hundreds of people as they think about their top value and realize that although they claim it to be their value, at times it is as if it is a gold-plated coin. You wouldn’t have to scratch very deeply to find it wasn’t pure gold.
On the surface, we can do a pretty good job of shining up the gold-plating. At a quick glance, no one would notice. People could be tricked into believing we really do deeply live our values. But when day after day, week after week and eventually year after year, we give more talk than action about our values, the coins quickly lose their gold-plating. If our time and attention are evidence of what we truly value, when the coating comes off the coin, the truth is what remains.
It is very hard to consistently honour our values. It’s easy to be distracted, to think we have lots of time, to put them to the side, just for now, to show them off when it is convenient but to turn our backs on them when they cause us some discomfort. How often do we turn on a device instead of having a conversation, pretend to listen instead of giving our full attention, and settle for good-enough instead of for our best?
It’s far too easy to be gold-plated instead of pure gold, and yet the pure gold moments are the ones we will cherish.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘Are these real gold?’
Elizabeth is a certified, professional Life and Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership and personal coaching for individuals and teams. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to identify your gold values.