There are five values I carry with me everyday: Spirituality, Meaningful Work, Life Purpose, Authenticity and Integrity. These are my personal core values; they determine what is most important to me, and in turn inform my actions. I have found that as I live more into my core values, my life feels more meaningful. I even have them as a personalized Live in the Grey screensaver on my iPhone, a constant reminder to keep them foremost in my thoughts. My values give me direction, serving as the “North Star” for every decision I make.
A few years ago, I was faced with a difficult decision. I was living in California at the time, working as an executive coach, and helping people to incorporate their own values and personal purpose into their work as business leaders. I had the option to leave San Francisco, a city I loved, to move to New York. As I considered my choice, I kept coming back to two of my values: “meaningful work” and “life purpose.” I saw that in order to stay true to these values, I needed to be in New York, where my private practice was growing organically and I could reach more people who sought my services. My values gave me clarity, and now, four years later, I know that they guided me to make the right choice.
The idea of bringing values and purpose into company culture has become a passion of mine outside of my private practice as well. After my move to New York, I joined Live in the Grey, and became involved in our work of creating authentic workplaces, as well as fostering personal authenticity. My role here as Chief Experience Officer is a direct extension of my personal values. I create innovative, experiential programs that transform workplaces into places where people can bring their whole selves to work. Our programs encourage people to get to know themselves more fully, and to connect with their colleagues more deeply in order to feel engaged, passionate, confident, and of course, valued.
The first program I created, Values@Work, is a transformative, hands-on experience that strengthens self-knowledge and teamwork. In Values@Work, you discover what matters most to you and your team, and learn how to live those values at work every day. Finding your personal core values is the first step towards understanding yourself on a deeper level — which in turn leads to more empathetic connections with others.
Strong empathetic connections with our work colleagues lead to better, more authentic communication, and is vital to a successful team. Research from Google has shown that the more “psychologically safe” a group or team feels, the more productive it will be. The behaviors that contribute to psychological safety are also the behaviors and traits that people rely on to form strong individual bonds. Given the amount of time most people spend around their colleagues, these personal relationships matter as much in the office as anywhere else.
Recently, I led our Values@Work experience with the new stock exchange firm, IEX. During a break, I overheard two team members chatting over a drink, discussing what they’d learned.
“What’s your top value?”
“Family. What’s yours?”
Hearing these men talk about family and love in the context of work was moving. They made a real connection in that moment — and the conversations and impact continued beyond the program.
When we came back to share data insights from the session with IEX’s executive leadership team, they were inspired by learning that “family” was the top shared value at their company. They wanted to do something more with this. As a result, they instituted an extra paid day off, called Family Day, a day devoted to spending time with loved ones. There’s only one requirement: share a photo of your day on the IEX digital board. Everyone in the company votes on the pictures, and the employee with the most votes wins another Family Day.
Not only did the employees discover their own personal values, but the company gained insights about its people. John Schwall, the COO at IEX, explained that “Doing the Values@Work experience has brought a new appreciation for what we value as individuals and as a team, and as a result we connect in new and meaningful ways.” For IEX, like many companies, it’s an opportunity for “both shaping and shifting our culture as our business grows.”
At Live in the Grey, we know that an emotionally healthy workplace is good for business. We firmly believe that the intra- and interpersonal growth and knowledge your people and teams will gain from exploring their values will positively impact the value of your company.
Kate Bednarski-Cohen serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Grey Matters and serves as is Live in the Grey’s Chief Experience Officer, where she stewards the brand and creates experiential programs on how to create authentic workplaces, where employees can bring their whole selves to work every day. Kate’s personal purpose to create meaning and transform lives has defined her work both as a brand marketing executive for brands including Nike, Keds and Walmart, and as a transpersonal executive coach, and remains the focus of her work with Live in the Grey.