…because some thoughts are worth remembering
~from gender gap and self-discovery to corporate branding and strategic vision~
Panacea is a term given for cure-all remedies, from the Greek goddess of of the same name. By no means a silver bullet, getting plenty of rest, drinking plenty of fluids can be a good advice for any ailment. When I found myself repeating the same suggestion, from a friend revising their resume to another trying to figure out how she can open her own hair salon: a 15-minute writing exercise on what your values are (what is important to you), and why.
While I knew that knowing the “how” and “why” behind “what” you wanted to do was essential to the success of implementing the “what”, I didn’t have a concrete way to gauge everyone’s attention until I read this article about closing the gender gap in a university physics class through a 15-minute writing exercise on the students’ values. It made sense to me that women, being the minority in a physics class, would benefit from reaffirming their personal values. I also saw an opportunity to simply reflect on my team members’ values as we started the strategic vision process for our organization.
I asked everyone in the organization to write continuously for 15 minutes without any editing. They were to not worry about grammar, spelling, etc. They only needed to keep writing about what values were important to them, and why they mattered to them. I collected them and read them all, and asked a few people to read them out loud and share their writing with the group at staff meetings. The variety impressed me. Some emphasized a specific value, like honesty, while others wrote listed a potpourri of items, like family, finances, and health. It helped me to see what their driving forces were, and what aspect of the organization would appeal to them, in how they described their values.
For any exercise to be effective, it’s important to keep building on it or referring to it. I then asked the staff to think about what their favorite brands were and why, with the ultimate goal to discuss what brand in themselves are they bringing to form the overall brand of the organization.
When I asked all the staff member to be part of the strategic vision meeting with our board members, they were ready to participate because they felt they had a set of core values they can contribute to the organization. One of the first exercises I asked the group to do individually, was to take a sticky note and write down what values were important to them in relationship to the organization’s mission and what motivated them to be part of the team. The sticky notes were then posted on a column in the room for the duration of the interactive meeting for everyone to see. It ranged from a brutally honest, “to pay my mortgage” and “I want to see my kids have career options here with competitive wages” to “realize Hawaii’s potential through technology” and “grow Hawaii’s future”. It set the scene for the next two hours, reflecting on our role in our community, our strengths and weaknesses, where we came from and where we wanted to go.
Whether you are getting ready for an interview or still at the stage of redrafting your resume, the question of who you are becomes crucial in identifying what is important to you to project to others in the short time or space that’s given.
Whether you are the founder of a startup or a leader of an established entity wanting to reboot, the question of who you are becomes crucial in identifying how you want to be in the organization you want to (re)build.
A 15-minute writing assignment is not a silver bullet for all the challenges that come with starting anew, but it seems to be a relevant exercise for anything that has to do with starting anew.