Value. There is a value in what we are either willing or able to do, the complexity we can handle, our persistence in seeing a task through to its conclusion, the commitments we keep, and our track record in achieving goals and overcoming challenges. It’s the reason we have jobs or start businesses. It’s the reason we have customers or employers. It’s the reason we have relationships. It’s the reason we are asked and agree to serve. Value is given and received in these “transactions”. When we perceive the value received exceeds the value given we feel we “got a good deal”. When we don’t receive the expected value for what we give in time, effort, stress, or money we are disappointed.
You have value. It’s often difficult to assess our value. I regularly try to quantify and, more importantly, improve the value I add in each transaction in my life. When I reach a point I cannot sustain, add, or increase my value, I will usually withdraw. If what I’m doing is not valued by others, I will seek to improve it. I want what I do to add value for others. I want the value received to be at least equal to the value given. Your time is too precious to be spent on things that either do not add value for others or do not add value for yourself. Ideally, the value added is mutual for each party. You should regularly assess the value you are adding in each activity with which you are involved and work to increase it.
Value Creation is at the core of any business enterprise. The value created and its economic value to all stakeholders is why businesses exist. How do you create and enhance the value you add? Here are some thoughts on how to increase your value to others:
1. Grind. There is tremendous value in just taking one step at a time towards a goal. Grinding is not glamorous, it doesn’t get much attention, and it doesn’t make headlines or excite people. People make headlines with big goals, big dreams, big purpose, big achievements, big failures, and big visibility. The reality, however, is that most “big” achievements happen by working through many small details and challenges over a very long time. Big achievements happen by grinding. A gym my son used to frequent has this saying on the wall: “You have to grind in the dark to shine in the light.” Grinding through a task, project, or the slow steps of working toward a long-term goal is hard. It’s also how success is earned.
2. Persist. What most of us call success is usually the outcome of many years of discipline, persistence, and small wins. It’s the outcome of grinding. Someone once said, “It’s taken me twenty years to become an overnight success.” I am a firm believer that you can accomplish many things by simply committing to a path, no matter how long or arduous, that leads to your goals. The process to achieve something meaningful is often more valuable to you than the outcome. The learning we obtain, the relationships we build, the challenges we overcome, cannot be duplicated and cannot be taught in a classroom. While we can learn from the experiences of others, we will never obtain the same depth of understanding without experiencing it ourselves.
3. #DoHardThings. I have seen this hashtag on t-shirts and online. If it’s easy, either everyone can and will do it, or it doesn’t have much value. Your value, what gives you a competitive advantage with your customers, with your employees, with your employer, with whom you interact and serve is in either what you do that few others can or what you accomplish that few others will. Taking on difficult challenges, things that nobody else wants to do, things that take a long time to achieve, or things that are very complex and require additional learning, and demonstrating a desire and ability to do what it takes to achieve them will make you very valuable. Accomplishing the “hard things” will set you apart.
“Your value…is in either what you do that few others can or
what you accomplish that few others will.”
4. Solve. Being willing and able to handle complexity is very valuable. You do not have to know everything about a complex task to start as long as you can learn. You will set yourself above others by taking on what others are afraid of or are unwilling to do. Complexity requires time, commitment, and a willingness to keep learning. It’s not for the faint of heart. You get bonus points if you can take the very complex and make it easy for others to understand. Your competitive advantage will be greatly enhanced while also being difficult for others to replicate.
5. Serve. One of the leadership firsts (more about FIRSTS here) is Willing Service. “Service is taking action to create value for someone else.” There are times that you should give value, not because of what you receive in return, but because you can. In reality, even if there no “economic value” received you will always still receive a “return.” You may not be able to quantify it, but it matters. Serving needs, people, and organizations will change you and will help you exponentially increase the value you add across all of the transactions in your life. Be known for serving others.
6. Upgrade. One of the best ways to increase your value is by continually upgrading yourself. Upgrading takes many forms. It includes more education but also includes any continuous learning, skill enhancement, self-improvement. It may include better lifestyle, diet, or fitness choices. Continuously improving and becoming better at what you offer will help you sustain and increase your value. You are not limited by what you know. You are limited by what you are willing and able to learn. Keep adding skills and improving on what you already know and do. Add to your strengths and improve on your weaknesses.
7. Create. I am an analytical type and this is an area in which I struggle. Expanding your mind and worldview to see complex and creative solutions that others do not will greatly increase your value. Taking it further, having the ability to implement a creative solution is a strength few people have. Many have great ideas but are poor in execution. If you can do both, you become very valuable. Writing this blog is both a creative and analytical exercise for me. It’s difficult and uncomfortable. (Where is my spreadsheet!)
8. Influence. Influence is the product of numerous factors which include performance, perception, and visibility. It’s increased by relationships, accomplishments, service to others, position, and all of the value enhancers we have been discussing. Influencers become very valuable to others and can be highly effective in a business or organization. When you have influence and can use it to create value for others, you become rare and valuable to those with whom you interact. Influence is not easy to develop, it may take many years, and can be squandered away in a few moments. There are plenty of examples in the media of those who had influence and lost it. You do not, however, have to be a “media darling” to have influence. I have been fortunate to meet many influential people that you likely would not know. They are behind the scenes of much that happens in my town. Without them, many worthwhile activities would never happen. They are very successful but don’t flaunt it and are using what they’ve built to accomplish much good. Influencers “get things done” though they often don’t get or want the credit.
So, what are you going to do to increase the value you are adding? What will you do differently? What will you learn? What task, project, or challenge will you take on? Are you willing to “grind it out?” Are you willing to “do hard things?” Are you willing to immerse yourself in a complex challenge? Are you willing to serve others? Can you upgrade yourself, be more creative, develop and use influence? What other ideas do you have to continue increasing your value to others? I would love to hear your comments!
This blog is one way I try to invest in others and to encourage character-driven leadership in life and business. If I can help, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, please visit www.leadershipfirsts.com.
By Alan Buttery