Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Archive for February, 2013

Values help us stay on track.

Identifying your values is a powerful tool as you strive to reach your goals and be the person and leader you want to be. Once you identify your core values, you can use those values to help you make sound decisions about your priorities and direction in your work and life, to ensure that you’re being true to what you believe is essential.

In my experience, when we behave in a way that is true to—or goes against—our core values we’re generally alerted by our own gut-level reaction. Although at different times in our lives we may not always seek or listen to the messages we’re sending ourselves! Say your personal values include: family; honesty; respect; adventure; trust; spirituality; and authenticity. Revisiting your values when you find yourself feeling unfulfilled, may validate and help you realize that your life has been particularly busy or stressful with responsibility and you’re lacking adventure, family time, or spiritual practice.

If you’re interested in establishing a set of values, it’s generally a good idea to aim for a list of about 5-10 top values that are most important to you today, that you believe strongly in, and that you feel well-define who you are. Whether you’re identifying values as an individual, work team, organization, or family, a concise list of values will serve you in aligning your priorities, decision-making, relationships, and/or services. This exercise can take a day or weeks as you carefully narrow down your list from the hundreds of values you might find published or think of. Here’s a tip that may help. You may find that some of the values you identify, naturally combine. For instance, if you value community, generosity, caring, and support, you might say that “service to others” is one of your top values.

About 10 years ago, I worked with a great coach—Jim Norman out of TX—who helped me create what I’ve identified as my five core values for my business. Here they are: Truth, Discretion, Collaboration, Flexibility, and Balance. Through his recommendation, I’ve also published and defined them on my site, to increase and share my commitment to them. Every once and a while, I review them and so far I’ve not felt a need to shift them. But keep in mind, that although values tend to be fairly stable some of your values may naturally change or shift priority as you move through life.

The efforts you make to identify your personal values and align your actions with them will undoubtedly serve you—and others—well as you’re navigating through your work and life.

Empathy—Great leaders have it and demonstrate it.

What Makes a Leader, by Daniel Goleman, Best of HBR, 1998 is still my favorite summary relating to Emotional Intelligence (EQ) at Work and I recommend it to anyone who is new to, or revisiting, the topic. You can purchase the 10-page article at In addition to offering you a sharp snapshot of EQ, the article can also serve as a great leadership development resource to share with your colleagues or employees as the basis for a rich learning opportunity and discussion.

Empathy is the fourth component of Goleman’s intriguing 5-part model, and a crucial attribute if you want to be a great communicator. I’m choosing to share these particular statements about empathy from Goleman’s article because I believe they offer relevant food for thought for those who may be revisiting the importance of their own ability to feel and demonstrate empathy:

– Of all the dimensions of emotional intelligence, empathy is the most easily recognized.

– We have all felt the empathy of a sensitive teacher or friend; we have all been struck by its absence in an unfeeling coach or boss.

– People who have empathy are attuned to subtleties in body language; they can hear the message beneath the words being spoken. Beyond that they have a deep understanding of both the existence and the importance of cultural and ethnic differences.

– A team’s leader must be able to sense and understand the viewpoints of everyone around the table.