Companies obsess over how to provide it to shareholders. They run commercials promising the “best value for your dollar.”  You look for it when you spend money with them.

But what is value, exactly? Sometimes it seems like one of those buzzwords – like “new and improved” – that can mean everything and nothing. Don’t get me wrong, value is important. But why should we care? Does it only matter at work? Or is value something that should apply to your whole life?

We can define value as the amount of importance, worth, or regard you have for something – and that something can be an idea, a product, a service – or of course, a person. So, basically, the more important someone or something is to our lives, the more value it has for us.

Value has long been used as a metric for running a successful business and providing good customer service. Today let’s go beyond that and discover how you can Thrive and not Just Survive by choosing to embrace a value-added life.

Adding Value to a Business

If you follow the financial headlines, you probably hear a lot about value. How much is a company worth? What’s the value of their stock? If you’re an investor, you might ask “what’s the value of my portfolio?” In this context, we assess “value” in financial terms. “Money” is just a common currency we use to measure the value of companies, stocks, real estate, investments and the like.

A business may also think of value in terms of the intrinsic quality of its products or services – such as having the fastest delivery times, the most fuel-efficient cars, or the longest-lasting batteries. In advertising and promotions, the organization might talk about the value it delivers to customers.

Adding Value for Customers

This desire to make money by convincing people to buy its products can lead a company to another important question – what exactly is value to our customers?

Some people answer this in simple transactional terms. How much does it cost to buy our product or service and what benefits does the customer get from using our it? As long as the customer perceives that the benefits exceed the price paid, value has been achieved.

Others define customer value in utilitarian terms, as in the old saying that people don’t buy drills, they buy holes. In this perspective, it’s not so much about how much you paid for a product or service, or even the nonmonetary costs, but what you can do with it that determines its value.

Becoming a Valuable Employee

So with all of that in mind, let me ask you something: When you go to work each day, how much do you think about value?

In an earlier blog, we talked about two key factors that tell you the difference between a job and a career – (1) the right match between your aptitudes and interests, and the needs of your employer, and (2) the level of passion you bring with you every day.

But even if you love your job, there will still be days when you find your energy waning and your mind wandering. How do you keep your enthusiasm going when you find yourself glancing at the clock a little too much, instead of living in the moment?

This is when reminding yourself about the importance of value comes in. You already know that your organization has goals for achieving value. You already know that, to meet those goals, your organization must deliver value as perceived by your customers.

So, when you find yourself stressing out about the next deadline, or about that awkward meeting coming up – take a deep breath, and gently bring your focus back to value.

  1. Remind yourself of your organization’s mission and goals.
  2. Remind yourself of what value means to your organization’s customers.
  3. Remind yourself of what your specific role is in delivering value to your customers, and in boosting the value of your organization.
  4. Take a look at the activities you’re engaged in right now. Ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing now moving the organization closer to providing that value?”
  5. If the answer is yes, then you know to stay the course. If the answer is no, then you can calmly take a step back and change to the right course.

By bringing the right mindset to work each day, and practicing these habits, you can bring more value to your organization, regardless of whether you’re the CEO, a sales representative, or a member of the production team.

Choosing The Value-Added Life

But we also know that your career is just one part of the multifaceted life you lead. To truly Thrive, and not Just Survive, you must balance the need to bring value to the workplace, and to the other important areas of your life – especially your relationships. That’s why I’m encouraging you to take a more expansive view of value. It’s not just about how much money you’re making for yourself – or for someone else.

Remember, at the beginning of this article we defined value as the importance, worth, or regard you have for a person, idea, or thing. Certainly your career is one of those things that has importance to you – it can bring you a sense of fulfillment, and of course, it helps pay the bills.

But who and what else has importance – or value – to you? Your family? Friends? Neighbors? Colleagues? Perhaps there are important issues that you care about – helping people affected by cancer, or those facing economic hardships.

When you’re spending time with people and things you care about – at home, at work, or elsewhere – think about the value you’re bringing, or could bring, to those times and places. Here are some good habits that anyone can practice:

  • Pay attention. Even in casual conversations, you might pick up on the passions, dreams, fears, and concerns of those you care about. Just like it’s important to listen to your customers and colleagues at work, so that you understand what’s important to them, how well are you doing this with other people in your life?
  • Be present. We all know that absenteeism can get you fired. The employee who doesn’t bother to show up is speaking volumes about how much – or really, how little – the organization matters to his or her life. We also know that work-life balance can be a tough challenge. But when you focus on adding value to the lives of those you care about, it’ll be worth the effort to make time for them just like you do for your job.
  • Respond proactively. The valuable employee doesn’t just wait for problems to strike unexpectedly. He or she learns to anticipate challenges as well as opportunities and makes an effort to meet them head on. When you practice the first two habits, you’ll be prepared to add value to those you care about – and to your own life – in a lot of different ways. It could be anything from having a better idea of what gifts to buy for the holidays, to choosing fun activities to enjoy together, or understanding the best way to help out during challenging times.

When you practice these three important but simple habits, you’ll be focused on living a value-added life. You’ll still recognize the importance of bringing value to your customers, your colleagues, and your boss, but you’ll also recognize how work is just part of the puzzle.

The value-added life means recognizing that the same habits that make you a valuable employee at work can make you a valuable spouse, parent, or friend. When you practice the habits of the value-added life, you’ll get closer to Thriving – and not Just Surviving – at work, at home, and everywhere!