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Core Values: The Best Kept Secret of True High Performance



High performers draw on more than savvy and skills. They draw on their core values to make the right decisions. Along with all the meteoric rises in success we hear about in the news, there are other leaders falling fast. A key reason is the missing ingredient in truly effective leadership: soul. You can’t stay the course without a belief system that keeps you on your feet — no matter the turbulence. Core values are the GPS that keeps us from getting lost in any arena.

We won’t be able to sustain all those other qualities if we don’t know where we stand on the basic core values. We all have a moral core. It’s just may been buried under layers of the other habits we take on as we move through work and life. 

I was reminded of how powerful it is to access and align with our own moral centers by Shawn Vij, a veteran business consultant who rose quickly and ruthlessly up the ranks. As he recounts in his book, Moral Fiber: Awakening Corporate Consciousness, he practiced a take-no-prisoners style of management that’s all too common. His nothing-personal model of decision-making produced plenty of casualties along the way. To be a winner, there had to be losers, he believed.

But he was miserable. It wasn’t long before he crashed into a wall of exhaustion and despair. His work didn’t just lack meaning, it ripped him to shreds. His life, family, health, career and state of mind were all suffering. Vij knew there had to be a better way.

He found it during a chance meeting with the Dalai Lama. This is a spiritual giant of our century, but he’s never above a good conversation. He listened to Vij’s troubles, and reminded him of one simple fact: we are all in this together.

What a concept for a single-minded dealmaker. It was so simple but profound that it blew Vij’s mind. Soon he was back on his feet, but this time, he made his work about people as well as profit. He got to know his colleagues and teams. He factored compassion into the mix. Here’s the kicker: Not only was he happier, he was more successful.

Here are three ways that moral core makes us perform better and succeed longer:

1.     Strength. We’re stronger when we add meaning and mindfulness to ambition and professional skills. The result of this mix is a truly solid foundation. Many of the world’s most successful and powerful leaders make decisions and forge strategies from a position of this strength.

2.     Support. We’re more supported by others when we convey our own values and strength of conviction in every decision we make. It empowers our people and teams to connect with their own values and find more meaning in what they do. In this case, compassion and capitalism really do go hand in hand. This shared alignment is unbreakable.

3.     Speed. We’re faster on our feet when we’re not slowed down by conflicts. When we combine ethics and business, there’s less friction to decision-making. That enables us to assess, prioritize, and focus faster — and not have to interrupt our momentum to look hard at unintended consequences.

If you haven’t tapped into your moral core for a while, now’s a good time to start. Take inventory of what you believe in. 

Consider your community. What issues does your town or city face? How could you make a contribution to the greater good, and in the process, reflect better on your business? You’ll be surprised at what you’re already aware of, and even more surprised at what happens when you factor in the bigger picture.  

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