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And why this is so important

Justin Shelley Leadership & Life Coach.

This month I am focusing on identifying a client's values and why I believe it is such an important part of the life coaching process.

In my opinion, some of the biggest questions you can ask yourself in life are often centred around your values. They represent what you stand for and what is important to you.

Values bring us energy and direction; they are at the core of what makes an individual tick and also serve us as a fulfilment compass. When people understand their values, they can create a way of operating in the world that provides them with purpose and meaning.

When a person lives to and honours their innermost values, they feel satisfied that they are being true to themselves. In contrast, when a person’s values are not being met, for whatever reason, it can make them feel uneasy or at odds with themselves.

Coach the person, not the problem

One of the best pieces of advice I was given at the beginning of my coach training was to coach the person, not the problem. To do this, I dedicate time upfront with my clients to get to know them as individuals and to understand what makes them tick.

In addition to the iPEC ELI attitudinal assessment that I discussed in my previous blog on Energy Leadership, I like to allocate time with my clients to determine what their values are and dedicate a full coaching session to them. This process provides vital information that can be used throughout the coaching relationship and in the client’s life, both myself (as a coach) and for my clients (for their clarity).

Clarifying a client's values

The process of identifying values can prove difficult for some clients and from my experience, simply providing a list of values to select from seldom works, as clients tend to fantasise or intellectualise about the list of values they would like to have; therefore, I use a slightly different approach to identify the client’s values.

In so doing I have adopted a method developed by the CO-ACTIVE training institute which provides a coaching-based approach. The method guides clients through the process of identifying life scenarios and adopting visualisation techniques that can be used to identify values being triggered during such life moments.

The purpose of this exercise is not to necessarily identify the client’s exact value words (this can create anxiety in the client). Rather, the exercise aims to identify a string of words, values or phrases that can later be attributed to the client’s set of values. For example:

  • Leadership/Decisiveness/Powerful

  • Integrity/Whole/Congruent

This process is based on four scenarios; the client will be given space and time to identify points in their life where these scenarios are clear to them.

Peak Moments in Time – Clients are asked to identify special moments in their life when a specific moment was particularly rewarding. These provide insight into values that are being honoured at that moment.

Suppressed Values – Clients are asked to identify the extreme opposite example of a peak moment, where they may have been particularly frustrated or angry. These provide insight into values that are not being honoured.

Must-Haves – Clients are asked to identify values they must have in their lives beyond physical requirements such as food, shelter and community. These could be in the form of creative expression, excitement, humour or being surrounded by nature.

Obsessive Expression – Clients are asked to identify values that they insist on honouring. These tend to be values that we demand in life (perhaps control or orderliness, which can become an obsessive demand for perfection). Our family and friends are often the ones who point out our obsessive expression values.

Once a client has identified a list of their values, time is then allocated for the client to further refine their list of values and create a personalised description of what each value means to them. Creating a personal description of that value brings the value to life and provides a further depth of meaning and additional data to work with.

Fear-based versus conscious based values

Knowing the difference between fear-based and conscious based values can be of huge benefit to both coach and client, as it can help to determine when a client is making decisions or choices out of fear or passion.

  • Fear-based values are those that cause us to take action to avoid something (have to)

  • Conscious based values allow us to take positive action and are linked to our passions (want to)

Values work enables clients to make better decisions as to what is most important to them, based on want-to rather than have-to values. When clients begin to make this call themselves, they shift to a new place of possibilities.

For the coach, just being able to question or remind a client about whether a decision or reason for being disgruntled or conflicted with something or someone can create an Aha! moment for the client. The coach can then provide the client with options to accept or change their approach or perspective on the matter.

So, why do I think knowing your values is so important in coaching and for everyone in general?

Here are just a few examples:

  • They can help you reduce your stress levels

  • They can help you react in difficult situations

  • They can help you make better decisions

  • They help you develop a deeper sense of self-awareness

  • They support your growth and development

  • They help you find purpose and motivation

Changing values over time

Values can change over time, depending on your experiences and particularly when people are going through a time of transformation in their lives.

Values can also be passed down to us through our parents and culture, so spending adequate time every one to two years to reflect on your values can provide us with many benefits.

If you have never considered before what your values might be, take a look at some examples that I think may kick start you to reflect which values speak to you and that could be used as a basis for a discussion with myself.

I hope you have found the above useful and, as always, if you have any questions regarding this or any other coaching topic, please feel free to get in touch.


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