Using Your Core Values to Find Your Niche

I’m an expert at complicating things, particularly if they’re to do with my inner world!  And I’ve found one of the reasons that causes me to take this route.  Taking myself too seriously!

For instance, I’ve been working really hard (there’s a sign that something’s amiss!) at finding a simple way of describing how I can help people through coaching.  Everyone (I know, this is a major generalisation!) says that it’s best to have a niche.  And this niche is best described so that it addresses either a problem a potential client has or a solution s/he wants.

Along the way I listened to various marketing experts, and by the end of it all I had so many things to consider, including Cialdini’s 6 principles of influence – reciprocity, consistency/commitment, authority, social validation, scarcity and liking.  Oh yes, and James Lavers’ 6 principles of Distance Persuasion to this – belonging, envy/emulation, ownership, significance, status and validation (go to to find out more).  Then add onto this my beliefs etc about how I need to be in relation to this all – and in comes taking myself too seriously!

However, after struggling for over a year, it just fell into place.  Just in case you want to know the words, they are that I want to help individuals and organisations make work an enjoyable and satisfying experience!

And what helped it fall into place?  First of all, reminding myself to lighten up!  This fits with one of my core values, happiness.  Within this value I include fun and enjoyment.  So this helped me live this value more truly.  Then I played on another core value, well-being, which includes openness.  For me to be open I still my mind and let my intuition come to the fore (another part of well-being).  I asked myself “what is the common theme in my work with people and organisations?” and up popped the thought “well you want people to be happy at work”.

Now within positive psychology research indicates that happiness is made up of four components (I thank Lucy Ryan for this information from

pleasure (the fun stuff in life, emotional, delight, momentary)

passion (engaging activities, in flow, fully absorbed, challenging)

purpose (meaning beyond self, gives you fulfilment, bigger picture)

people (relationships that nourish, interest and fulfil you, giving and nurturing friendships, people you love who love you back)

I believe this summarises what I want work to be for everyone.  However, not everyone would know about these components – hence replacing the word ‘happy’ to give a bit more clarity yet still simply stated.

For a person who espouses living your values, I was a bit slow on the uptake to use my own!  This is just proof that strengths and core values are NOT interchangeable!  And I’m finding new ways all the time.



Values in Business

“So what relevance do values have in business?” you may well ask. Apart from the obvious ethical practices within business, they have lots of relevance to the performance – and health – of both the business and its employees.

But you know this already, don’t you? And yet I wonder how much your core values influence how you are in the work you do? And how much do you encourage not only yourself but also others to work within their personal values? I know that despite knowing how supportive they are, I don’t make the most of them.

So what stops us living our values at work perfectly?
There are two sources – one is outside and one inside of us.

Let’s consider the external source first. There are various ways the external world impacts us …

  1. We’re told to work in a particular way: for instance, we may be told to never admit the organisation is in the wrong even though it may be, or that you have to work unpaid overtime even though your family life matters to you
  2. ‘This is the way things are done here’ (even though it may be contrary to avowed culture, written procedures etc): for example, cutting corners, or doing what’s good for the company and to the detriment of their customers, or taking business pens and paper to use personally at home or using work time on personal matters without permission
  3. Working within the organisation’s values: It’s fair enough that organisations have core values, which they want demonstrated in what and how work is achieved. But what happens if they become or are in conflict with your own personal values? What then? I suspect it depends how much of a compromise you have to make.

Now what about the internal source? Well …

  1. We’re great in demonstrating certain aspects of our core values, but not others: now I’m not going to repeat my capability to trust my husband on the big things but not on the little things (OK, I’ve just done it!). Another example is intuition. I know people who are great at using their intuition on small things – like bringing some bread to a friend’s picnic even though they’ve not been asked to, and then finding that the friend had forgotten to pack theirs! Yet they are very wary to trust it for the big/serious matters in their life, such as a job offer. Logically, it appears to ‘tick all the boxes’ and yet they have a felt-sense it’s not right. However, they accept the job and then find it isn’t what they expected.
  2. We’re great at demonstrating our core values in certain parts of our life, but not in others, even though we want to: so, another person I know has ‘well-being’ as one of her values. She’s really good at making sure she has a great balance between work and the rest of her life, but boy does she struggle with eating a balanced diet and the right quantity for her lifestyle! And she knows she is not living her value of ‘well-being’ for herself through this behaviour.
  3. We want others to demonstrate our core values, but don’t practise them ourselves (or only very intermittently!): for instance, ‘respect’ is a core value for one client in relation to communication. After a particular discussion about an example of conversation she gave, she recognised that she was demanding respect from others but not showing it herself. She hadn’t noticed this beforehand. Now she is committed to demonstrating respect in the way she speaks and hoping this will inspire reciprocation over time.
  4. We need to practise our values: So for this client I mentioned in point 2, it took her a bit of time first to notice when she wasn’t speaking respectfully and then learning how to speak from a place of respect. For another person, they had a core value for the rest of their life and realised they wanted to bring it into their work. It was ‘love’. And it took time to find out how they wanted to demonstrate this value at work and in their work.
  5. It isn’t always appropriate to demonstrate particular values: going back to trust, it is appropriate to not trust certain people or situations, for physical and/or psychological safety reasons. When I was working with one person (developing a metaphor for one of her values, frankness) she recognised for the first time that her frankness will be best used when she selects the appropriate situations. Timing matters.

You may be wondering why on earth we want to live our values when all this is in our way. Well, because of what living your values gives you, even when not lived perfectly! Here are some of the gifts: strength of purpose, solid foundations of confidence and self-esteem, energy, enjoyment, power, improved performance at work with less ‘trying hard’ or ‘working hard’ … and more.

So there you are! I’d love to know your thoughts/experiences of living your values. What have you gained from it – and what other internal and/or external sources do you recognise that make it difficult to live your values. DO tell me.

All the best


P.S. If you want to know more about living your values in business,


Living Your Values in Business

What you’ll gain from this event will be:

clarity about what core values are important to you in business,
• a deeper understanding about how your core values shape you – how you think, speak, observer, hear, feel and behave,
• a stronger appreciation what this can mean to you at work,
time to think about you in business, and
one particular commitment you make that will enhance you in business through the application of your core values.

And you’ll leave the session renewed, re-energised and may be even with new friends!

This is an interactive event – there’ll be some background information given, followed by a series of activities that help you gain the clarity, understanding etc mentioned above.

All this for £20 (inc VAT)!

This event takes place …
on Tuesday, 12 July 2011 starting at 7.00 pm and finishing at 9.30 pm
at Mortimer Room, Old Market, Nailsworth, Glos GL6 0DU
BOOK NOW!  Contact me, Helen Harrison, on 01453-835263, mobile 07710-124321 or

The Power of Using Your Values in Your CV

Recently I was coaching a person who had been made redundant and actively looking for work for over 5 months with no joy in the financial services sector.

In one session we worked on not only discovering her values and strengths, but also their impact on her job satisfaction.

At the end of this session, she took up the idea to be open about her core values on her CV (she already covered her strengths). She recognised that any organisation that she would find a pleasure to work for would consider her personal values of significance to them. In addition, she thought this would also be a way to stand out from all the other CVs.

Within a month of making this change to her CV, she was offered a job in an organisation that suited her completely. And she accepted it. She said that she noticed the interviews included a discussion about values. This included her giving examples of how they guided her behaviour at work and the interviewees giving such examples when working in their organisation. This increased both parties understanding and appreciation of each other.

Her recommendation to those still looking for a job that they will enjoy is to include details about their core values on their CV.

Go for it!

Values and Strengths: similarities and differences

I want to consider values and strengths.

Why? Because recently it’s hit home to me that people tend to assume that if something is one of your core values, you must be good at it too. In one event I was running on values, one person said “but value words are strength words. They seem the same to me”.


For instance, one of my core values is ‘happiness’. Now as much as I’d love to say I’m good at being happy, that just is not the case all the time. Yes, a good proportion of my time I am happy, and I hope I engender some happiness in others. At the same time, I know I am occasionally unnecessarily grumpy/tetchy – and not just when I’m hungry! In addition, I often remember the 1% negative feedback over all the positive, which certainly detracts from my happiness.

I don’t think I’m the only one who has values in which I’m inconsistent in how good I am at demonstrating them.

So what are strengths? And how do they differ from values? Let’s look at dictionary definitions first. I’ve selected the definitions that relate to how we are using the words in this article. In the New Oxford Dictionary of English the definitions are:

• “strength: a good or beneficial quality or attribute of a person or thing”
• “values: a person’s principles or standards of behaviour: one’s judgement of what is important in life”

And here’s my take on similarities and differences between values and strengths…

The similarities between values and strengths are:

– They create energy
– They can change over time
– They are unique to each individual: they are specific in nature and show themselves in a particular way with each person. Even when two people may have the same named value or strength, how they both apply it will depend on all the other aspects in and outside of themselves
– They are developed from a huge variety of sources
– They can vary in importance (or certainly depth of strength)
– Individual values can support each other, and so can individual strengths
– They have a positive feel/ring to them: and at the same time, for values they can lead to conflict between individuals/groups who hold different values. As for strengths, if over-used may cause difficulties e.g. tenacity becomes stubbornness!
– Two values/strengths can appear to be in conflict: e.g. equality and diversity for values, good at working on own and good at work as part of a team for strengths
– They add something positive to our life when sensitively put into practice: for values I’m talking about non-material benefits, like happiness, health, confidence, strength of purpose, enjoyment … I think strengths can give something positive to our lives when they encouraged to be used, but their impact is less far reaching

Now let’s consider how they differ. For values:

• We aspire to them, want to live by them in our lives
• They can involve rights and responsibilities: values are usually two-way e.g. wanting to give and receive trust. There are no rights or responsibilities linked to strengths in general
• They are generalisations, and exceptions naturally occur. For example, I think ‘trust’ is important: I want to trust people and be trusted by people – at the same time, I recognise that it is appropriate that this doesn’t happen in some circumstances
• They have a positive intention. Even though there can be negative consequences, the value is there for positive reasons (e.g. a whistle blower takes that action because s/he holds some value that leads to that action, even though it may have detrimental consequences to his/her life). There are no intentions, positive or negative, linked to a strength that I have noticed
• They guide our behaviour, thoughts, feelings, communication, decisions, attitudes and the like. For strengths, you may select a particular career because it plays on your strengths, but they don’t act so clearly as a guide.
• A particular voice tone is used: the tone is positive, uplifting and with energy. I don’t think any particular tone is used when speaking about strengths
• They require no external justification. For strengths this is not necessarily true, because sometimes you are asked to explain/demonstrate in what you consider something to be a strength e.g. in a job interview
• They may be chosen by each individual. If you include inherent talents under strengths, that reduces choice. Yet you may also choose to develop a strength e.g. in sport, playing a musical instrument. This difference is less clean cut

So there you are. And I’m guessing that you might like something that helps you work out whether you have in mind a value or a strength!

Here are two questions that can help you. Ask yourself:

“Is this something I aspire to, aim to be like?” (if ‘yes’ then it’s a value)
“Is this something I consider I really good at doing?” (if ‘yes’ then it’s a strength).

I’d love to know your thoughts/experiences around beliefs and values. DO tell me.

All the best

The Challenge of Choosing the Right Career

Steve Pavlina has written a great blog on the challenge of choosing the right career. You can read it at

Whatever career (or non-career) path you take and however ‘good’ or ‘bad’ you find it, it is possible to gain something positive out of it, if you choose to look at life in that way.

When I was a student I took a holiday job working in administration for a high street bank (the sort you and I go to). I quickly knew that this type of organisation would not suit me for a permanent career as it had so many rules and regulations, leaving little opportunity to use initiative. And the level of detail involved was incredible! None of my strengths that I like using were relevant at all.

There is solid evidence (linked to positive psychology) that when you can use your strengths in your work, it is better for all concerned.

So if you’re trying to work out what career to choose, one area I’d strongly recommend you consider looking at is where your strengths lie. When you know this you can then think what types of career might require you to use them.