What Do You Stand For?

June 1, 2017

While presenting at the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership Connections Conference I met my youngest participant. She was to be 3 months in a few days and her name was Frances. Her mom came to participate in the Having Hard Conversations session. Given I don’t get to hold babies often in my work, it was a gift to hold her while her mom found her own voice around what matters for children in her care.

I speak about ‘finding your voice around what matters’ in everything I do. But do we actually take a time out to determine what matters? Do you know? Can you articulate it with confidence? What values do you want to live in your work with others?

I had an opportunity to think about that question in a day’s discussion with management and marketing consultant, Stan Slap. (If you want to know about the group I learn with, Learning Omnivores, send me an email.) The group spent a day learning about creating a work culture based on clear values. The critical question of the day was “What are your values? And, do you live them at work?”

After a set of values was put up for us to review, we spent time in silent reflection picking our top 10, our top 6, and ultimately our top 3. Then we shared out. The share out was round robin. It wasn’t to disagree with what others said or to determine what the best values should be, but to state out loud what you valued and hear it in the air. Then to reflectively ask yourself, “Do you live those values in your work?” Or as Peter Block asks, “Do you walk bent over in compromise every day you go do your job? Or do you walk into work standing tall?”

My three key values include courage, integrity and impact. What do I speak up for no matter if it is welcome or comfortable? What do I believe in and do I walk my talk in all I write or say? Do I find ways to help others do the same?

Frances and I walked around while her mom was working and she looked at all the early childhood program directors, coordinators, coaches and administrators who were finding their voices around what mattered to them in their schools. They were all trying to speak up around their values – what they want life to be for the pre-K kids in their programs. I whispered to Frances, “We are doing this for you. You are why we are here.” And then Frances spit up on me. It was the best takeaway of the day. Why are you at work? What do you value? Stand tall.

If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to email me at jennifer@jenniferabrams.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

Cool Resources

These are varied yet equally cool-for both head and heart.

Daniel “Sunshine” Bauer’s Better Leaders Better Schools Podcast
Bauer writes, “On this podcast I will be interviewing the best school leaders in education today, picking their brains and mining for the strategies that the top school leaders use on a day-to-day basis in their schools. I also interview world-class leaders from other industries to apply their insights into the education setting.”

Rumi Oracle: An Invitation into the Heart of the Divine Cards
“Whether you have studied his poetry for years or are drawn to him only now, this oracle deck will strengthen and illuminate your connection with this beautiful and powerful soul who loves you with a fierce passion.”

In connection with the blog, Stan Slap’s Under the Hood: Fire Up and Fine-Tune Your Employee Culture. “You want maximum business performance? Look under the hood and you’ll find your employee culture: it is the power that drives the enterprise engine. To harness that rumbling power you’ve got to solve the mystery of what an employee culture actually is, how it operates and how to move it forward. These are the keys that this book will put right in your hands.”

About Jennifer Abrams

Jennifer Abrams

Jennifer Abrams considers herself a "voice coach," helping others learn how to best use their voices – be it collaborating on a team, presenting in front of an audience, coaching a colleague and supervising an employee. Jennifer holds a Master's degree in Education from Stanford University and a Bachelor's degree in English from Tufts University. She lives in Palo Alto, California. Jennifer's publications include Having Hard Conversations, The Multigenerational Workplace: Communicating, Collaborating & Creating Community and Hard Conversations Unpacked – the Whos, the Whens and the What Ifs. She has also created a Corwin Press e-course by the same name.

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Praise for Jennifer

“I hope you are well. I approached you right after your morning session on hard conversations to thank you for the amazing workshop. I shared that I am tough to impress. Equally, important, I never smile. Nonetheless, your approach elicited a genuine excitement and passion for the work.”

John Wilson, Curriculum Director
Atlanta Jewish Academy, Atlanta, GA