How Analyzing Anger Can Help You Develop Your Core Values

How Analyzing Anger Can Help You Develop Your Core Values

The leaders I work closely with know how heavily I emphasize the importance of Core Values for their organization. Without them, a company’s Mission, Vision, and Purpose (not to mention strategy) won’t fuel its journey the way its leaders intend. Yet, for smaller organizations — especially those without a leadership team — developing a set of Core Values often seems like a daunting process. Consider the recent conversation I had with the owner of a relatively small business that generates around $7M annually.

“I’ve been listening to what you’ve shared with me, and I see the value of a strategic plan and having values for my organization…but I have no idea where to begin. I’ve been successful so far, and I’ve accomplished everything through hard work and instinct. I know that I’ve gone as far as I can doing this, though, and that we need a plan. I also know that there’s all this opportunity out there, and I no longer trust myself to say “No” to exciting opportunities. I think you’re right in that a big part of saying “No” means having a plan and core values to use as a filter. I also think creating core values comes first, but I don’t really have a leadership team yet and fancy words don’t always come easy for me. Where do I start?”

These sentiments are shared among owners who reach a certain size, and this individual is far from alone in their struggle. Consider the following three statements.

  • I don’t know where to begin with developing Core Values.
  • I don’t have a leadership team to help me develop Core Values.
  • I think I know what I value, but I don’t know how to put it into words.

Were you thinking, “That sounds like me!” when you read those statements? If yes, here’s a “solo” exercise, an anger analysis exercise, to help guide you as you begin to build out your Core Values.

8 Steps for Using the Anger Analysis Exercise to Kickstart Your Core Values Development

The anger analysis exercise is a fantastic way to turn the daily experience of running your organization into a defined set of Core Values. Here’s how it works…

An incident happens at work, and it upsets you. You then experience a negative emotional surge. (You may outwardly display the emotion, or you may keep it bottled up inside.) The emotion was triggered because the work incident touched upon something you’re passionate about. This passion is an indicator of an underlying core value. When this happens, here’s what you do.

1. Document.

Write or type what happened that angered or upset you? Was it a behavior or an action? Describe the incident with specificity and use as many sentences as you need. Do NOT include your feelings or reflections here. Only detail the observed facts of the situation.

2. Chill.

After you’ve documented what upset you, try not to think about it for 24-48 hours. This is an important part of the process because many of us are primed to be reactionary. Allowing time to pass between documentation and Step 3 will enable you to think more objectively about what happened and how you feel about it.

3. Reflect.

After you’ve waited a day or so, consider the following:

  1. Why did this incident upset you?
  2. What feelings arise when you recall the incident?

Record your reflections in detail. If you have difficulty recalling and documenting the way you felt, it indicates this is not an appropriate incident to mine for your Core Values. 

4. Summarize and Rephrase.

Open a spreadsheet and create three columns.

  1. Reduce the incident description to one compact sentence. Place this sentence into the first column.
  2. Reduce your reflections about how you feel about the incident to one compact sentence. Place that statement into the second column.

5. Analyze.

Review what you’ve recorded in Columns 1 and 2. Is a value readily apparent to you? If yes, describe the value using one to seven words in the third column. If no, leave Column 3 blank, and go about your day.

6. Repeat.

When the next work incident that causes an emotional surge arises, return to Step 1, and follow the process from Step 1 through Step 5 again. Continue to repeat this process as incidents occur until you have documented at least seven to ten incidents.

7. Evaluate and Group.

Once you’ve completed the entire process with seven to ten incidents, assess if any themes exist. Examples of common themes are safety, process, constant improvement, craftsmanship, and service. What themes do you see? Is there a commonality to any of the values?

8. List Your Preliminary Values.

After you’ve uncovered a minimum of three preliminary Core Values, list them on a new sheet of paper or spreadsheet. You’re now ready for the next steps: wordsmithing and codification. (Give me a shout, and we can discuss what that entails.)

Ready to Begin?

Starting is often the most difficult part of the process. Fortunately, you can take the sting out of starting by using your day-to-day experiences and the anger analyzing exercise as tools for crafting your Core Values.

Do you have questions about developing your Core Values? Drop me a line! I’m always here to help give you the push that you need.


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