Friday, January 8, 2010

Gimme a V!

Team V***oni.  That's what I call us.

A few weeks ago my firm held one of its bi-annual "Learning Days."  On Learning Day the consulting staff gathers together to learn from each other and from other experts in our field.  We share lessons from client projects and host guest speakers.

One of our guest speakers spoke about dealing with cultural differences in the workplace.  Don't worry.  While I find the topic interesting, I promise you that this post will not be about clashing business cultures.  As a warm-up exercise our speaker asked us to answer three questions:
  1.  What values are important in your life?  (We were given a list of 60 to get us thinking.)
  2. Why is this value important?  What are the beliefs that drive this value for you?
  3. What behaviors do you exhibit relative to this value?
This was my favorite part of the day because it forced me to think, quickly, about what I care about and why.  Then more importantly question three asks, "Oh yeah, what are yous gonna do about it?"  Where's the action behind the words?   

Question one
At first it was hard to choose my top values from this list.  There were few that I didn't at least want to have.   Integrity, honesty, humility, wisdom, generosity, excellence.... Yes, please.  But then my eyes landed on "family" and I stopped reading.  That it's.  Number one.  Nothing else matters more to me.  Next question please.

Question two
But why?  Why family?  I jotted notes to myself (trying to work quickly and think clearly).  I'm sure you know how these things work.  Someone gets called on to share.  Can't sound too dopey at work.   I wrote that family is a powerful source of identity and belonging; family takes care of you, accepts you unconditionally, and provides security in a big world of danger and possibility.  I also noted, but didn't write, that family makes me happy.  While true, it would have been too saccharine to read aloud at work.

Question three
Rubber, meet Road.  What do I DO to make this value come to life in my home that someone, especially my children, will notice?  Do I do enough to show the people that matter (uh, family) that I value them above all else?  Does having a job outside of my home run counter to this value?  I don't think so but it certainly introduces tensions and forces choices.  Here is what I wrote to myself:
  1. We make family meals an absolute priority and force the children to have real conversations and show interest in one another's lives and stories.  Someday they really will listen as well as they tell, right?  
  2. We spend nearly all of our free time together, sacrificing more time with friends and even turning down playdates for the kids so that the five of us stick together during the limited hours we have to spend as a group of five.  GJ isn't always happy about this because sometimes we just go grocery shopping together.  It has to get done and when we have only two precious days together, all five of us, Deano and I get stingy with the kids' time.  
  3. My favorite thing on this list is silly but true.  It was born of a need to look at a pair of beautiful shoes in Banana Republic one day while alone with the kids.  You are wondering why I even entered this store with three children in tow, and you should be.  They were misbehaving in the store and I asked them in a low tone, "What are you doing right now?  Do you know that when you are outside of our home that you represent this family?"  They just looked at me and started antagonizing each other again, so we left the store while I glanced back at the pretty shoes.  Now, we have a mantra established and it works for us.  When they misbehave in public I say, "Who do you represent?"  And then I make them say, "Team V***oni," and they know that means to shape up or we're OUT. 
Maybe I'm getting my point across.  Only time will tell.  Maybe I'm a little psychotic.  Only time will tell.  Either way, I learned something at Learning Day (imagine that).  It's not enough to hold a value dear and to preach it.  You gotta live it.   It was a thought provoking exercise for me and one I intend to repeat periodically.  What do I value and do my actions measure up? 


  1. Laura, someone once told me that you have to try to get it right everyday. I think that's the same as you gotta live it. Here's to "Team V***oni"! Barbara