What I aim to achieve in this essay is to determine what Core Values are, and where they come from. I will describe how the Client will live their life according to those values, or not as the case may be. Also what the consequences are for the Client if their values are not in alignment with their goals and beliefs. Finally, I will look at where values fit in with goals and beliefs, and the potential for the Client to sabotage themselves. In doing so I will answer if discovering the Clients Core values is important.

Before we can discuss whether a Clients Core Values are important to discover or not, we must first seek to understand what a value is. There are numerous definitions of what values are. In the coaching arena, a value represents how people associate different values with the world at large. Here I have tried to combine a few of the common ones, and link them together.

“Values are the qualities of a life lived fully from the inside out ”. There are no right or wrong values; neither are they principles or standards. They are the personal rules, by which we choose to live. Values are who we are right now, not who we would like to be, or think we should be. They serve as a compass pointing out what it means to be your true self.

They determine who we are, what life means to us and the actions we take. They are the “must haves” beyond food and shelter; these are non-negotiable for the Client in order to be fulfilled. They are unique in that they are different for each individual. Values are the supporting framework for our beliefs. Often they are developed at an unconscious level coming from family backgrounds, teachers, and peer groups. They develop over time as we develop as individuals. They are often masked by general life values , so getting beyond these reveals the true identity of a person.

A Core Value is one that is relevant to all aspects of an individual’s life, not just in one life area such as career, money, or physical environment. Interestingly in The Coaching Manual it talks about values being in alignment with goals, but does not cover what values are in the whole book! The coaching model mentions step 3, values but does nothing to explain what they are.

Steven Covey refers to values being “maps in our heads”, or the way things should be. We are often unaware we have them and assume the way we see things is they way they really are. In Susan Jeffers book she makes an interesting reference to values as “establishing your priorities”, which is more in line with your overall goals, when making decisions in life.

It is interesting to note that there appears to be a large body of work that suggests a relationship between beliefs, values and goals. Which I agree does lead to fulfilment. While the latter two definitions are valid, they are not descriptive enough for me, but are included to demonstrate the broad interpretation of values.

The very reason we elicit our Clients Core Values is to understand the controlling factor behind their beliefs, behaviours and motivation. When a Client is able to live their life and honour their values on a consistent basis, then life will be fulfilling for them. They will continue to grow and develop (although this may still mean hard work at times!).

When a Client is not able to honour their values, they may lack motivation, or feel a sense of stress. A typical example is one that I have experienced myself while working for a large corporation. The corporation had its own values and missions; in order to “tow the company line” I had to adopt these in the workplace. What I found however is that they were in conflict with my own Core Values, and I sensed a feeling of great stress not being able to honour them. Considering that we spend a large proportion of our lives at work this is not a small issue.

By not honouring your Core Values, there may also be a knock-on effect in other areas of life i.e. relationship, recreation, finance. Some of these effects may have far reaching consequences, and not all of them of a positive nature. Therefore it is clear that only by discovery, can the client begin the path to fulfilment, and to identify what might be behind any areas of stress in their lives. The evidence I have so far supports my statement.

Values clarification and elicitation exercises are helpful for the coach to get to know the Client, and for the Client to know themselves. Both can use values to facilitate choices, take appropriate actions and recognise which values are an issue. There are a number of ways in which we can discover our Clients Core Values. They all seek to uncover the values that are already there. Nicola Stevens suggests using questions that can assist in clarifying a Clients values. By using negative and positive situations for them to recall, you can draw out clues to those Core Values.

In Co-Active Coaching they ask the Client to describe their values in their own lives. They can refer to a peak moment in time that was particularly rewarding or significant in their lives. This pins down how they were feeling, or what values were being honoured at that moment. There is also mention of suppressed values where the opposite extreme is identified. For example when a Client is angry or upset, a value may have been violated. This value can then be identified and explored.

A further way to define the values is to use a values elicitation exercise which as an outcome will produce a prioritised list. This allows the Client to asses each value in turn, and to give them a weighting. A value based decision matrix is an exercise designed for Clients to prioritise their values and review them over time. Where values score low, these could be good opportunities for further exploration.

In Pam Richardson’s book “The Life Coach” , she also demonstrates an alternative way to elicit core values. She presents a “values cycle” where the Client fills in a value in each segment, and on a scale how much that particular value is being honoured right now.

These are all good ways to elicit the Clients Core Values, without getting them to select them from a checklist. The reason a checklist should be avoided is that Clients may pick words that describe how they would like to be, or what they think other people want to hear. Also they may not be the words that the Client may naturally use in their vocabulary and therefore may not feel a strong affinity to. However I see the disadvantage of the “values cycle” is that it conditions the Client to thinking they can only have a number of values consistent with segments in the wheel (8 in the example). While it addresses the values and how they are being honoured at present, it does not go deeper to classify them in any particular hierarchy.

Once the Core Values are discovered, you can see how much a Client is honouring these values. They may take weeks and months to finalise, and do not always get done in the first pass of any exercise. They will also change from time to time which is to be expected, to reflect where a Client is in their lives, and also if that value still serves them.

Although initially you would do this on the Clients whole life in general, it may be fruitful to repeat the process in other areas of the Clients life such as Career, Financial, or Recreation. There may or may not be differences in the Core Values, however if there is an area of life (wheel of life) that is scoring low, then this may suggest a misalignment of a value.

The order of hierarchy will determine the weighting of a Core Value. The highest will have the greatest influence on an outcome. If the top value is in conflict with another value, then a mixed outcome is possible. Often the Client will say the first thing that comes into their heads. Sometimes they will state a value in order to project a specific impression of themselves. Comparing the values after doing the values elicitation exercise is very helpful to a Client in raising their awareness of where they are now in relation to their values.

The Coach must be careful in interpreting the words that the Client uses to describe a value. They could have completely different meanings for both parties. Often a Client will use a “Chunk word” for example Family, which when probed deeper may reveal spending more time together, or sharing which may be the true value. Therefore a good Coach would ask the Client to explain what that particular word means to them.

It is important that values are in alignment with the Client’s vision and beliefs prior to them setting goals. If it is not done in this sequence, then the goals the Client may choose to pursue may not give them true fulfilment. Important life decisions are easier to make and the outcomes are more fulfilling when based on well understood Core Values.

Steven Covey states that in developing your personal mission statement (goals), your values should guide you , supporting the earlier definitions. Julie Starr in “The Coaching Manual” also states that often a goal out of alignment requires a Client to go back and check their values, and when done correctly can increase motivation towards that goal. I support both arguments and think that alignment is a key principle to a fulfilling life.

A simple way to check this is to ask the Client how achieving a particular goal will honour or fulfil one of their Core Values. If the goal does not then this is one area for future work. Although goal setting is not part of this study, it is mentioned here for completeness.

Values have an impact on our beliefs, which together contribute to our goal setting, and what we wish to achieve. This is sometimes referred to as “the unstoppable combination” , when values, beliefs and goals are in alignment. I think that this describes the alignment completely, and that values are only part of the jigsaw.

When a Client honours their values they support motivation and purpose for action. They undermine the work of the saboteur because action based on values is more powerful than the saboteur’s reasons for not taking action, or taking some other course of action. Lastly they will go on to lead fulfilling lives.
In the NM Practitioner Diploma workbook, it states that “no goal will give you true fulfilment unless it is congruent with your personal values” . It then goes on to say “all goals, dreams and desires are simply the vehicle for fulfilling our values. I fully agree with these statements and it is supported in the earlier reference to the definitions. There is a clear link between goals, beliefs and values.

In conclusion I feel that discovering and understanding your Clients Core Values is fundamental to an effective coaching relationship, and should be done sooner rather than later in the process. They are important for the following reasons.

Values determine who the Client is right now. Values clarification is helpful for the Client to know themselves and what makes them. Equally it allows the coach to get to know the Client. Values can help facilitate choices, take appropriate actions and recognise which values are an issue. They are part of “the unstoppable combination” , when values, beliefs and goals are in alignment.

There are various methods and techniques to elicit your Clients Core Values. It is not critical which one you use. I personally favour the values elicitation exercise in the NM Practitioner Diploma Workbook. What is important however is to avoid giving your Client a list to choose from. Remain mindful of their interpretation and meaning to the words they use to describe a value for them.

When a Client is able to live their life and honour their values on a consistent basis, then life will be fulfilling for them. They will continue to grow and develop.

Co-active Coaching-Whitworth, Kimsey-House, Sandhal, Davies Black ISBN 9780891061984
The Life Coach - Pam Richardson, Hamlyn ISBN 0600609316
Learning to Coach - Nicola Stevens, How to books ISBN 9781845282714
The Coaching Manual - Julie Starr, Prentice Hall ISBN 9780273713524
The 7 habits of Highly Effective People-S.Covey, Franklin Covey ISBN 9780684858395
Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway - Susan Jeffers, Vermillion ISBN 0091907075
Noble Manhattan Practitioner Coach Diploma Workbook

Author's Bio: 

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