Date: April 5, 2022
By Matthew Coyle, LeaderImpact Global
Sometimes we can feel, because of company culture, or because of something our manager might have said, that personal convictions are best left at the door when we come into work. Buying into this way of thinking will create an unhealthy dissonance in who I am as a person. The symptoms of this dissonance might include anxiety, looking over my shoulder, and possibly feelings of guilt about the decisions I am supposed to make at work.
So, should your personal convictions affect your work decisions? A great place to start on this question is to first identify what our convictions are. So let's start with an exercise - write down a list of things that you would define as a conviction.
In the stories of our common imagination, like David and Goliath, the Lord of the Rings, or Moana, convictions are the beliefs that people would never give up, they are the north star that leads a hero on his quest, or they are a tradition that people will risk their lives to defend. In that sense, they are hard wired into who we are. As I shape my life around my convictions they become increasingly ingrained in my instinctive decision making, so I cannot help but let my personal convictions affect my work decisions.
In my view, the decisions that I make at work are a great litmus test for what my personal convictions really are. The work place is busy - there are deadlines to meet, customers and stakeholders to engage with, budget targets to hit, and it can quickly become a pressure cooker when decisions need to be made and you are on the clock. One thing I know for sure, when the pressure comes on, the real me comes out. In the midst of this type of pressure, we tend to respond instinctively. It is often these instinctive responses that reveal to me what my real convictions are. On paper, I may say that integrity or honesty are absolutely core to who I am as a person, but if I am in the habit of making decisions that make me look good in a meeting, but behind closed doors I am ill-tempered towards my colleagues, then it is difficult to say integrity is a core conviction.
Take some time to self-review. Look at the list of convictions or values that you wrote and think about the decisions you have made in the last week.
Can you see a straight line between your conviction and your decision making? If not, take some time to think about how a decision might have better reflected your convictions.
(For extra credit: choose one of the decision making moments from the last week and ask someone else who was part of that moment, "How did you experience me when...?" You might be surprised by what they tell you.)
As a leader who wants to become an increasingly authentic (and healthy) person, I need to push back on the dissonance this creates. In his book, Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud illustrates this by describing a problem that might occur between neighbours. If your neighbour moves a shared fence so that it encroaches on your property you would need to talk to your neighbour to remind them where the boundary line is - you have a legal right to what happens on your property. In the same way, at work we need to be clear about what our boundary markers are. We need to be comfortable with upholding these boundaries in order to live by our personal convictions, even at work.
As much as I want to be a whole and authentic person with healthy boundaries who effortlessly lives out my convictions, I know in myself (and I am sure that my colleagues would attest to this), that I regularly fail to live up to the standards that my convictions create. I want to be generous and open in my meetings, but when I communicate, I often take things personally or respond rigidly and inflexibly. I want to encourage personal growth for people on my team, but I often feel a strange jealousy inside myself when I push someone else forward. In situations like this, it is important that I am honest with myself and recognise that I always have room to improve.
Fortunately, as a person of faith, I am confident that these failures do not need to define me. Instead, my confidence as a person, comes from the knowledge that God accepts me as I am today. Not only that, but God is present with me everyday, both prompting me and enabling me to live out my convictions at work and at the office.
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