Three Steps To Living Out Your Values With Brené Brown


There are times when we’re faced with decisions we don’t want to make. Moments when an employee is falling behind and needs some hard-to-hear feedback, or when we’re the one in the hot seat and must have a tough conversation about our work.

To conquer these situations with our best intentions in the forefront and maintain our integrity, we must consider our values. It’s easy to make snap decisions or do what feels best in the moment without truly considering what is important to us and what values we hold. But when we take a moment to identify our values and then act on them accordingly, hard decisions may still be hard, but we’ll know we’re making choices that we can stand by. When we understand how to live out our values, they can be our guiding star when we face criticism, have difficult conversations, or make hard decisions.

In Dare To Lead, acclaimed researcher Brené Brown investigates how leaders address issues with integrity and courage. She found that they do this by identifying their values and living a life that puts those values front and center. It also allows others to know them authentically, but it requires comfort with being vulnerable. Having our values known means trusting people (and yourself) to act in alignment with them. However, when leaders share their values and live their lives in line with them, they can help provide clarity in tricky situations. Brené walks us through three steps to show us how we can live a value-based life as well. 

Step One: Identify And Name Your Values

The first step Brené shares is to name your set of values. Values are “principles or standards of behavior,” which she also says are “a way of being or believing that we hold most important.” Every person’s values will be unique and reflect what’s important to them. As you figure out what yours might be, you can download a list from Brené’s website, or use another tool like The ONE Thing Core Values deck.

How you arrive at the values isn’t as important as identifying what is important to you. Here are a few possible values you might have:





As you go through possible values, remember these words Brené shares from Jim Collins: “If you have more than three priorities, you have no priorities” (p. 187). If you truly want to live your values well, focus on up to three values that you know you can devote your energy to.

When deciding between your top picks, think about how one value may feed the others. Faith is an important value for Brené, and she hated to choose it over family, but she couldn’t see herself practicing her family value well without faith powering her through it all. Yours may also stack in this way, so think deeply on what each value means to you and how it might relate to other values.

Step Two: Take Values From BS To Behavior

If this whole talk of “values” makes you want to roll your eyes, we get it. And so does Brené. She has seen successful organizations treat their values like lip service—the message sounds enticing but their habits and policies (“behaviors”) don’t align with what they’ve shared. Now that you know what your values are, you can turn the tide and align them with everything that you do.

Get yourself a pen and piece of paper. Take a moment to identify three or four larger habits or behaviors that define each of your values. Then, see if you can identify three or four actions you may take that aren’t aligned with each of those values. Then, write down an example of a time when you were fully living into your value. By comparing the two lists, you’ll identify the gap between some actions you should stop or change and perhaps unlock some new ones start incorporating into your behavior.

If one of your values is “growth” for example, you may think of behaviors that align with it like “reading” or “getting a coach.” However, be honest if your current actions in these behaviors really fit with your value. Say “growth” is a value you’ve identified for your career and you’re a geologist. You are a voracious reader, but you only read fantasy novels. This behavior might not necessarily align with your value. It doesn’t mean you have to stop reading fantasy novels! But you need to add a different approach for reading to be a behavior that aligns with your value. This might look like taking notes and highlighting passages in a recent report on landslides.  

Step Three: Find People Who Can Help You Live Out Your Values

Brené says it’s important to identify the people closest to you who can help you stay in touch with your values. These people are going to have your back and remind you of what’s meaningful to you. They will also hold you accountable to your actions.

Here are a few questions Brené suggests asking to get started:

  1. Who is someone who knows your values and supports your efforts to live into them?
  2. What does that support look like?
  3. What can you do as an act of self-compassion to support your values?
  4. What are the red flags that signal you’re living outside of your values?

Now, as you’re uncovering and sharing your values, you’ll be letting yourself be vulnerable. It may feel uncomfortable to be so honest with others and to ask them to be honest with you in turn, but embracing that discomfort so that you can be closer and more aligned with others—that’s what Brené calls daring leadership.

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