Adapting your behavior without compromising your values

Bo Hanson byline

One of the challenges we face as Coaches or as leaders at some stage of our career is when we feel like our values have been compromised. So what are our values, what defines them and what is the difference between our values and behavior?

One definition is that values are ‘principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgement of what is important in life.’

Values and Behavior

Essentially our values are the things that are most important to us. They are things we would never compromise on. And although they are ‘standards of our behavior’, they do differ from our actual behaviors which can be adapted to suit a particular circumstance, without us having to change our fundamental values.

As a Coach, one of our key roles is to create a culture for our athletes based on these values. Recently, I was put in a position where my values, and the culture I was creating with a team of young athletes, was significantly compromised by the administration at this club, and it forced me to make a very tough decision.

This is not an uncommon scenario for Coaches.

For me, I see sport as being a vehicle to teach life skills, an opportunity to participate and to be your best at something. So I had spent five years developing a great culture with my young athletes based on loyalty, being a good team member, being the best person you can be, and always giving 100%. But being your best is not necessarily about winning and this is where the conflict occurred at my club because one of my core values, loyalty, was compromised through a selection process.

Values and Behavior

Winning is not the ultimate outcome we are looking for, especially in kids sport. Even at an elite level, if you focus on the end result you lose sight of the enjoyment of participating and the wonderful experience of the sporting journey. In youth sport particularly, when you are result focused, you are often left disappointed and frustrated with the experience. Unfortunately we see this a lot and it is one of the reasons why there are significant drop outs in sports from ages 10-13. Children simply choose not to be part of sport anymore.

So I was left with the question – ‘what do I do?’ Knowing that sport is an opportunity to teach life skills and knowing that I wouldn’t compromise on my values, I was faced with a choice. Did I want to continue with the club and have my values ‘stepped on’, or did I want to use this opportunity to show my young athletes why values are so important.

I made the choice that it was more important to use this as a life lesson and I decided to step away from my coaching program at this club while at the same time, trying to make changes to the overall processes so this didn’t happen again.

I wanted to change the clubs culture by creating behavioral changes without compromising my values and this is where we define the difference between values and behavior.

“Values should never be compromised, but you can adapt behaviors.”

As a Coach we are constantly needing to adapt our behaviors to better deal with different people and different circumstances. But we should never change who we are fundamentally. We need to be strong for our athletes and always remember to role model toughness, resiliency and teach others through our team culture and our values.

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