Finding Your Community's Values
6 min read

Finding Your Community's Values

Finding Your Community's Values

Whether or not you explicitly define them, your values are likely to show up in your community. What's important to us always has a way of sneaking into our decisions, how we spend our time and who we gravitate towards.

Being intentional in defining what's important to you is a shortcut that will prevent you from going down the wrong path, help you stay calm in moments of stress and make decisions easier.

According to research by Steven C. Hayes, PhD, focusing on values:

  • Reduces physiological responses
  • Buffers impact from negative judgment
  • Reduces defensiveness
  • Helps us be more receptive to information that’s hard to accept

What this means for you in your community is that grounding yourself in your values makes it easier to:

  • Make confident decisions for yourself and your community.
  • Stop distractions that come from comparing your business to others.
  • Be a more effective, creative and calm leader.
  • Better deal with conflict when it arises.

I've helped many community leaders define their values, but for my own community, I hadn't yet spent much time establishing and communicating values.

So as I started working on my next iteration and launch of my community, I was feeling overwhelmed, worrying too much about what others would think, and not grounding myself in how I could uniquely help my members.

I decided to take my own advice by going through the values exercises in my course and spend time redefining my own values and finding the ones I wanted to bring to the community.

This is the process I followed, which you're welcome to use for yourself in your own community.

A disclaimer that determining your values is a lifelong journey! You'll hopefully have some clarity after going through this exercise but I recommend you spend a lot more time trying them out in the world, journaling, seeing how they show up naturally for you and then tweaking the list as you grow and change.

As I often say, this stuff is messy!

Start with a long list of personal values

To know what you can bring to your community, you have to start with what matters to you.

Here's one way to start your list of personal values.

Set some time aside.. just 20 minutes is a good start! Move away from your desk if you can, take a couple of deep breaths and clear your mind.

Find a long list of value words and choose the ones that resonate with you. You can use the process I use by making a copy of this google sheet (there are specific directions are in there for you).

At this point, it's best to go fast and go with your gut. Which of the words most resonate with you? Rate those a 3 and go down the list.

Narrow the list down to 5

This is the hard part! If you went down the whole list, many of the words might have resonated with you. The next step is to put the ones you picked to the test.

Try first to combine similar words into one value. Then remove any words that you picked because "everyone should have this one their list." Keep the values that don't just make you feel good, but resonate with your unique view of the world.

If you're focused on this exercise, when you read the right words for you, you might have a physical reaction like butterflies or tingling in your spine. Look for those reactions and let them guide the ones you pick.

Remember, we are still talking about your personal values as a whole human, don't think about your community yet.

Some questions to consider or journal on for each value as you're narrowing down to 5 personal core values:

  • What does this value mean to me?
  • What does it look like when I'm living up to this value?
  • What would the ultimate representation of this value look like in my life?
  • What is a small moment when I've make this value come alive in my day-to-day life?

How your personal values show up within your community

Building any kind of business is a lot more personal than we tend to give it credit.. this is how you're choosing to spend your days! It matters!

A community business is even more personal because what you're doing is helping others connect with each other. The more you are connected with yourself and what matters to you, the more you'll be able to show up for others and design a place where they can do that.

Where do your personal values align with what you can bring to your community?

I recommend that you land on only 2 top values for your community. Your personal values are only for you so it's okay to have a longer list. You're the only one who needs to understand how they fit together.

Within a community, your values will be front and center and you'll have to clearly communicate them to others often and with everything you do. The more community values you have the more they begin to sound like meaningless corporate speak, the more they conflict and the harder it is to make decisions based on them. So I recommend finding no more than 2 words that best represent your community's values.

Your community's values don't necessarily have to come from your personal values. But I recommend that you know how they intersect with your personal values.

Here are the question to consider as you're picking your community's values:

  • What are the common goals that my members share?
  • Which of my personal values best conveys my point of view on how to achieve the above goals?
  • Which of my personal values is driving me to start this particular community at this particular time?
  • Are there any values that didn't make it to my top 5 but feel right for this community? (Look at the list again)

My Community's Values

This is what the values exercise looked like for me.

For the course community, the top 2 values I landed on are Self-Actualization and Connection.

Before I committed to these, I answered the following questions for each:

  • What is my definition of this value?
  • Why is it important to me?
  • What does this look like within my community?

Here are my answers to these:

Self-Actualization to me means becoming more ourselves throughout the course of our life. I believe that our work on community businesses is at its core a tool for us to do that. This is one of my personal values because it's a big part of what I think my purpose on earth is.

Putting this value front and center as one for the community I'm building also speaks to my belief that the better we know ourselves, the better we are able to show up for our own communities and create little pockets of the world we ultimately want to be a part of.

What this means for the community I'm building and the course I'm teaching is that every piece of it, however practical, has to be centered on the individual community leader and how through the process of building this community business they are getting closer to becoming more themselves.

Connection to me means being fully present able to deeply share space with others. This is a personal value of mine because connection has always been something I struggled with and tried to figure out for myself. Perfectionism often got in the way of connection for me.

But I've found that the more I open up to being fully present with others, the better I knew myself and the more successful my efforts became.

Putting this value front and center in the community I'm building speaks to the goal all the members who join should have in common: to better connect.. with themselves, with others and others to each other.

What this means for the community is that it has to be a microcosm of the overall more connected world we are seeking to create. Whenever there's a choice, the option that gets us closer to ourselves and each other will be what we choose, even over other important values like financial success, ambition and mastery.

In conclusion

I realized going through it this time that I've been doing this exercise or some version of it, roughly once a year for 5+ years! A lot of my values have stayed consistent, some have become stronger while others have become less important to me.

Finding your values is not a one-time effort!

Giving yourself time to reflect on what's important to you and then making a plan on how to let those values guide your day-to-day, will make you calmer leader and your community more successful.

If this was helpful to you, please share with a community builder!

Subscribe and build a more successful community business →