Values and dealbreaker conversations

On very rare occasions, your values in all their strength and delicate beauty will get crushed or people will start using this against you. I hope this is not part of your day-to-day experience, but this can happen. These moments are crucial, or will turn out to be crucial looking back. So if this happens, take the invitation to take a closer look, don’t ignore the pointers. This is where the stuff happens that truly matters.
I still remember a few messy conversations down to where I stood and what I was wearing. One situation stood our in particular for how bizarre it was. In my youthful zeal, I had been pretty outspoken about values and pointing out biases and privilege, which earned me the reputation with my then boss to be a “friend of humanity” (he meant that as an insult – go figure). Assignments and communication deteriorated rapidly as that moniker increased in usage. If you are looking for pointers on cultural fit – that was one.
My slightly more grown up self would have handled this situation differently. I’m a lot more radical now and at the same time a bit more skilled in raising issues if there are any that need raising. I wear “friend of humanity” as the badge of honour it really is (in my books). And hopefully I am getting slightly more attuned to what people call “cultural fit”. That place and I clearly weren’t, and I moved on soon after.
I am not saying values conversations are easy. It’s a learning journey for all involved. When you get hurt, it will hurt more and deeper as it will matter on a whole different level. This work will lead you to bigger questions and decisions and they might be disruptive in the short-term. I have lost money and career opportunities over this. Looking back on 19 years in the business world, the regrets I have are usually about not being radical enough and waiting too long, not about speaking up (although arguably the form of speaking up could occasionally have done with an upgrade, I do have regrets around some of that).
In the long-run (reminder: this is your life, this is the long run) you will be better off in an environment that embraces you for who and how you are and where your values flourish. And where you can have the conversations you want and need. The deeper you get into this, the more the bar will shift for what good leadership and a helpful organizational culture looks like. For yourself as your own ongoing practice, and for the people you want to surround yourself with. Your planning horizon becomes more long-term. You will no longer get lukewarm reactions as people will either gravitate towards you, or you will exit each other’s orbits. That is not a bad thing. You both become more humble/compassionate and more fierce/radical at the same time, and in this tension discover strength and radiance second to none.
What have your experiences been with that? What helps you on your path? 

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