Between the constant pressures of job performance and the demands on your time, it’s easy to lose sight of your values, letting them shift out of alignment. Those simple misalignments are keeping you from feeling joyful and fulfilled. The Values First Framework developed by Laura Eigel can help you change that picture by re-centering your life around what truly matters to you. With proven reflections and exercises to help you zero in on your core values and discover what authentic leadership means for you, Values First is going to help you shift out of the struggle and into the flow of the joyful career and the joyful life that you are meant to live. Here is my conversation with Laura Eigel.

Welcome back to Author Hour. I’m your host Benji Block and today, we are honored to be joined by Laura Eigel. She has just authored a new book and the title of the book is Values First: How Knowing Your Core Beliefs Can Get You the Life and Career You Want. Laura, welcome to Author Hour.

Laura Eigel: Thank you so much for having me.

Benji Block: Laura, you are the founder of The Catch Group, a leadership coaching firm that’s helping accelerate women into the C-Suite and you also have your own podcast that you host, You Belong in the C-Suite Podcast. I’m excited to get to chat with you for a number of reasons but you’re very busy. Tell me why now is the right time to work on a book on top of all this other stuff you’re doing?

Laura Eigel: Thanks so much for the question. You know, I’ve had the podcast now for a little over a year and I didn’t realize how much I loved creating until then and the book is an avenue for creation I think. Also, it’s really a way to scale. I mean, I can’t work with every person and one of the things that I love doing when I was in corporate America is scaling things and making them accessible. So the book is a really great way to do that and to make it accessible for lots of different people.

Benji Block: So, when you’re working on this book, who are you imagining in your mind like your ideal reader that — what’s giving you that juice, that momentum to keep writing because you know someone is going to pick it up and get something from it.

Laura Eigel: You know, it’s funny and I learn this in the book writing process, I feel like I’m writing it to the early-career version of myself.

Benji Block: Nice.

Laura Eigel: You know? And it’s something that I – when I picture that, I’m almost picturing young Laura right outside of grad school and the things that I wish I knew, right? So really, the ideal reader is anybody in corporate America or an entrepreneur. The framework is very accessible and it really doesn’t matter where you are in your career. I think there’s – you’ll get a nugget out of it but the person that I imagined as I was writing it was really early career me.

Benji Block: I love that. I am always so interested to hear who people imagine. I think a younger version of you, you know exactly how to talk to that person, right? Because you’ve lived through it, it makes your perspective more valuable and you know the insights that you needed. So let’s dive into some of the content here. Clearly, you’re talking a lot about value, values first.

The Evolution of “Values”

Values is actually an acronym in the book and we won’t get into all of these but values is, values first, audit time, life boundaries, uplifting others, experiencing conflict, sustaining values. Let’s just start there at the top, this idea of values first and I’d love to know, for you Laura, what started prompting you towards this values first approach?

Laura Eigel: Yeah, thank you for the question. I am – as I reflect back in my career, this is always the way that I’ve led. I’ve led with authenticity and I’ve dug into the things that matter most to me and you know, once I put a language to it and I could name it, that’s really when I found, “Hey, this is really applicable. If it’s applicable for me, it’s going to be for others” and so, values first is really the first step, right? 

The first thing I need to do is to define what matters most to me, to set the foundation, to really understand, “Am I living this life of fulfillment and what does that even look like, can I name it?” Because the way that you can get to it and I show this within an exercise in the first part of the book is you know, just clarifying what that looks like and sometimes identifying your values, it’s identifying what’s not working and because if you’re in discomfort or if you’re in a feeling of being unfulfilled, being able to name that unfulfillment is usually tied to a value.

I think that’s the first steps of it is putting a language around it so that I can identify what is being met and what is not and this idea of values, everybody has values. Every single person can tell you something that’s meaningful to them and so for myself, I know that my values are family, growth, development, advocacy, achievement and balance. When I’m living those, then I’m more fulfilled and when I’m not, that is very apparent. 

It’s usually one of those things are not being met or those things are in conflict with each other. What I find is that, you know, once you can name that, then it sets you up to then create a plan of action to attain those in life and career. That’s why that’s just such an integral step to that process is to really first understand what your values even are.

Benji Block: Yeah, I was going to say, I totally think if people would take the time to sit down, they would see the way they’re living the values that they’re living from but sometimes we’re just blind to the water that we swim in, right? Sometimes we’re just kind of going along and like, “Oh, I didn’t really realize how much of a value this is to me.”

Did you see some of your values kind of bubble up organically or did you choose – choose it out of a passion, maybe early in your career and go, “Man, I want to intentionally pursue values” how did you begin to spot those things?

Laura Eigel: I’ve been an HR and human resources for my career and one of the things that I have done like many people in corporate America, you’ve taken assessments, whether that’s the – like a Disk or being a Myers Briggs, all those kinds of things, right? I’ve also done research and personality and so lots of this things kind of come up, there’s lots of different frameworks and categories. 

When I looked to myself, I knew that very specifically things about me I knew worked to be true. Basically, my whole life, this idea of “I love to learn” right? Always love to learn but I didn’t really parse that out int two different values until later on in life when I realized, it’s not just that I like learning that’s my value of growth is this idea of growth mindset but I also liked to help others develop too. 

What does that look like to me and I was very intentional trying to understand it as I grew my career and so to me, they’re two different things and one was a little bit more organic for my — in my whole life in terms of growth but this idea of development and developing others through coaching and through being that authentic leader, kind of came a little bit later after more self-reflection

Benji Block: You mentioned research a little bit earlier and in your research, you’ve started to really expand on this idea of a values-based approach. I wonder, was there something that you thought about values before your research that your mind is totally shifted on, changed on, maybe it’s an evolution of thought around values.

Laura Eigel: Yeah, I just think it’s this idea that your values are potentially going to evolve, right? Even your definition of how that value shows up could change, right? The research shows that like your personality is pretty stable over time, right? How you’re perceived by others and how you show up just as a leader is generally like, if you’re an extrovert or if you’re an introvert, those kinds of things but you know as you grow, I think there’s always room for evolution and so what I would say is, this idea of intentionally just reflecting on, “Are these still my values?”

Being okay for them to change, they don’t have to be in the same categories or this idea of evolution of even, “What is that value even mean to you at this point in your life?” What that could mean might look different now or in six months but I think the importance of the framework is that you continually hold space and time to reflect and to really understand what it does mean for you and what you need to do to meet those new needs and this idea of evolution, we are not the same person that we are right now.

You know earlier in my career, achievement was a lot more important to me. It still is important but right now, I’d say growth development and advocacy are more important to me. Even the balance of them has shifted for me, even if my values have stayed the same, that has evolved. We are evolving creatures, we’re never going to stay the same but this idea of consistency of the self-reflection I think is what we really need to do.

Benji Block: Yeah, self-reflection is huge in this process, one of the ways that you equip readers to do that is through the values first workbook that goes along with the book. I found that you had this worksheet that I think is really insightful. “I’m living my values when – “ and it’s one of the identification pieces in this puzzle, right?

The Catalyst for Values Implementation

One of the other ones was like creating a values vision board. When you think of putting your values into action, what’s been maybe the biggest catalyst to those that you coach, is there a common denominator maybe a – is it this worksheet or what would you say are some of those common themes that really help implementation of values?

Laura Eigel: That’s a great question. I would say, it’s probably a combination of the, “I’m successful when.” This idea of knowing what success looks like in that time of life for each value but – then, how you’re actually auditing your – how you’re spending your time and so, the second piece of the values framework is to audit your time and to see where you’re actually spending the time and where your values show up and that is the eye-opener, right?

I’ve defined what success looks like and then I see how I’m actually doing it and those can be two very different things, right? You think that this is showing up here and there and there but really, it’s not and what I will — what I’ll say is, the higher you get in your career, usually, the tradeoffs that we’re making is that we’re working more. When I find that the executives and the C-suite that I coach, they have to have – they have to manage their calendar so much, even more so that it actually looks like working less to ensure that their values are being met and then when they are at work, they are showing up as they want to authentically for their team. So those points of insights really come together as we audit our time.

Benji Block: Yeah, I had a boss that is specifically around money but he used to say that, “Show me your bank account, show me how you spend your money and I’ll show you what you value” and I feel the exact same way about our time, right? Because it’s one thing to have those internal values that we’re like, “I think I care about this” or “Internally, I care about this but then, is it showing up in my calendar?” and you have this idea of the calendar review exercise that I think again, it’s like, your book is not very long but it’s so practical and packs a powerful punch because you’re giving away these ways that we can actually implement our values.

Go a little bit maybe further down that road for me and what it looks like to conduct a calendar review that is — well, basically, a values calendar review.

Laura Eigel: Yeah, absolutely. I’m asking that you just identify how you’re spending your time and so I think the general person in corporate America, they probably live and die by their outlook calendar, whatever you use, right? Your Apple calendar.

We allocate time for meetings, people put their meetings on our calendar, we’ve got meetings on other people’s calendar but that’s not the story of all the time that we spend and so, what we do in the values calendar review is just in increments of 30 minutes. Throughout the day, what are you spending time on, what does getting up look like from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed, just catalog it, right?

We start there and what I ask that you do it for several days just to get a kind of a representation of a regular week including the times that you’re usually not in meetings. So what does shutting off look like? Are you binging Netflix? Whatever you’re doing, just write it down, right? No judgment and then the second step of that after you’ve cataloged four, you know, five to seven days, then we assign a value to that. 

This idea of, was this meeting in alignment of any of your about values and not all the time, we’ll be in alignment with a value. You won’t be able to name a value for everything but what I find is that there’s certain things that we do that we don’t even realize actually are aligned with our values. So not only are you identifying some gaps, you’re also identifying some times where you probably are living your values that you’re not even giving yourself credit for.

So this second step of kind of values allocation, kind of in addition to auditing time will give us a pretty good indication of what’s really happening. If I say, “My family is important to me, that’s one of my top values” and then in this week, you know I had barely saw them, okay, well, that’s a gap that I might need to fill, right?

Benji Block: Yup.

Laura Eigel: Or, achievement is my value and it’s showing up so much because guess what achievement equals? Achievement equals work and so that will – is sometimes a huge eye-opener as well and so every day you’re not going to get every single value met, of course not but what I would say is that we want to identify a couple of things that we might want to change. Give yourself credit for the really great things that you are doing and how does that align with your values. 

I had one leader that said, “You know, I didn’t realize it but you know when I cook, I cook with my daughter and that’s not only cooking for me. It is kind of like my value of creativity but it’s also a value of family” and that insight was so beneficial to see and she would not have seen that unless you had done that values calendar review. 

Benji Block: I love that example as well because there are moments in our day where we are or we could live into our values but they just seem mundane like, “I am around my wife when…” you know what I mean? But what would it look like to live out that value when we’re around each other. So then it might add some conversation pieces instead of being on our phone but there is natural rhythms where we could take advantage of the people that we’re around and in the right way, right? To actually live out our values so I like that.

I wonder for someone who is already executing on that, right? You are living into this, you’ve audited your time, what does it look like over time once you are into the rhythm? Are you reviewing weekly Laura or is it something that you – how often are you telling people to kind of look at their time and audit it a bit? 

Laura Eigel: You know a big audit I think should happen at least once a year. I do my audit time review at the beginning of the year kind of as I set my goals and then I don’t think that you have to look at it every week. I think that sometimes that’s going to be too overwhelming, so what I say is that every quarter, every 90 days or so I want you to review your values. I want you to review your time, so do that values check-in and say, “How is this showing up?” 

“How is this value showing up? Has anything changed?” and then at that time, you can do that next layer down like, “Okay, how is it showing up in my week? Is it showing up as often as I want? Has something shifted to where this value is a little bit more important? Okay, well how can I shift my time?” and so I think a lot of these exercises if we put too much rigor, it almost feels too big, right? 

I want this to be approachable and I want this to be something that you can do incrementally. This is not something that I think people are going to just completely change their week and completely change every minute of how they are spending their time. This should really be incremental. I want you to focus on one value at a time, what is the most important thing right now and to your point, maybe it is I have this time, spending time with my family but what it looks like right now is you know, we’re hanging out on the couch together. 

We are next to each other but we’re really not together, right? We’re not like in conversation, yeah, right? I do it all the time. We do the same thing at my house sometimes so instead, what might we need to do? That is where this idea of life boundaries comes in. How do you create these boundaries to truly live that time? Do we need to have a boundary of, “Okay, no phones for the first 30 minutes after we wind down for the day.” 

You know, is it a boundary of, do we play a game instead of watch TV. Whatever it might be, how do you set up those boundaries and I teach you how to do that through the third step of the values framework, which is life boundaries but I want you to try one new boundary at a time because anything more than that is going to be a little bit too overwhelming and when I think about boundaries, they are not hard and fast.

But we like to think of them as if you can build a boundary it is almost like you’re wrapping your arms around those values. You are saying that this boundary is going to help me protect my values and it’s going to help me show up how I want to, to be more fulfilled and so what are some of those simple rules. It might be with time, it could be with technology or it could be a mental shift that you have to make to live into those values a little bit more. 

Building Community

Benji Block: Okay, I want to talk about the role that others kind of play in all of this for a second and I just wonder how do you see it, maybe it’s accountability. I know as a coach and as you’re kind of mentoring and helping people through this process as well but how do we live out our values in the context of community or maybe ensure that we’re doing that with those around us? Is there a specific element that we should be aware of when it comes to the people that we’re around in the community we’re doing life with? 

Laura Eigel: Research will show that if you have community, you know, if you’re social in some of your endeavors sometimes it’s stickier, right? This idea that you are going through something with somebody else, you’re going to be accountable to them and so as we talk about living a life of your values, you know something that I’ve learned for myself and my own experience and through my coaching experience coaching others is that we need help. 

We need help from others and so, through uplifting others specifically peers, I think that you’re going to be able to lean into your values a little bit more. So I talk about this idea of having like I call it your catch crew. This group of people that you go to like you need that support and who do you go to, you know you have the – maybe it is your group of friends from college or your BFF at work whoever it is, that could be your spouse, your sibling, whoever it might be but this idea of checking in with others.

I think it’s twofold. It’s one accountability so they can give you that tough love when you need it, right? If you tell them, “Hey, this is what I’m working on” or “This is what’s important to me, I am trying to put this boundary” and they can check in on you, right? Then the other powerful piece of community here in peers are that you can see them living out theirs as well and I think sometimes mentors are wonderful but sometimes peers are the places where I learn the most from because somebody that’s your peer is just so relatable. 

If you can see them living out their values or their boundaries sometimes that’s the best motivation. So I think this idea of not just doing the self-reflection but then checking in with each other is that piece that people find for their accountability is the differentiating factor.

Benji Block: As you’ve worked with others and implementing these values approach, what do you see as like the common maybe reoccurring obstacles that stand in people’s way of actually implementing this stuff? 

Laura Eigel: Right now and I think people have seen it during the pandemic is work like we’re working too much. We are working too much and we’re not taking care of ourselves and so especially as I primarily coach women, this happens a lot in the pandemic, right? This idea of I am taking care of everybody, I am trying to meet all of the things all the time and so what I found as a kind of reoccurring theme of my clients is that they have a value of let’s call it balance or health or wellness but it is very often not being that. 

I would extend that to just any executive in general, you know whether you’re a man, woman, non-binary, whatever your gender, you know the higher you get in your career what I find is that you dig in a little bit more on the work side, less so on taking care of yourself whether that’s taking your vacation, working too late many days in a row, right? These are some themes that have happened definitely pre-pandemic but have I think been exasperated by it.

You know, the people that are doing it well have more boundaries and are more, you know, I use the word ruthless before, more ruthless in those times and just I would say even more plugged in to what matters to them and how they’re showing up because they realize other people are watching. They are watching what you say, they’re watching what you do and the power of modeling your values and your boundaries to others I cannot tell you how huge that is. 

I was in a C-suite role, I was the Chief Learning Officer at the time the pandemic hit and you know our kids, just like everybody else, our kids got — we went to spring break and we didn’t go back, right? Now we’re in virtual school and at the time my kids were four and seven and my husband also is dual career so everybody is home and it was pandemonium and I literally had to say, “Hey, my family is — I have to spend this time now.” 

What that means is that I am not going to be available at work as much and this was me in a C-suite role telling them I am not going to be around during the day of every day for part of it because this is going to be important, right? I set core hours, I literally had to work less because we had kids in virtual school and so what that looked like for me was we took shifts, my husband and I and the feedback that I got from my team and from people that didn’t even report to me, I still hear about it and I don’t even work there anymore. 

This idea of, “I can’t thank you so much for modeling this because I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to get it done, so thank you for telling me that you were doing it” and I would say, “So people are watching you.” They are watching your for good or for bad and how you show up for yourself is not just for you but it’s given the other people permission that report to you as well to do that for themselves as well. 

Benji Block: Well as we start to wrap up, let’s talk about the women you’ve worked with and what does this look like as they’ve implemented the values approach and the change that they’ve seen. Would you want to highlight just maybe a couple of examples for us Laura? 

Laura Eigel: Yeah, absolutely. One really powerful example from the book is from Mackenzie and she did her audit and that we were talking about before and she realized, “You know, I’m not living some of my values at work” and really, she took a step back and thought, “Is this the place I want to be? Is this the kind of role that I want to be in” and at the time just before she had turned down a job offer to work at another firm. 

We dug into why and she was like, “Well, you know it wasn’t the same level” and I said, “Well, is that important to you?” Is achievement, you know, because there’s nothing wrong with that. The title, that is a huge motivator that can absolutely be your value and she said, “No, you know what’s most important to me is living my value of influence at work” and we talked about what that meant and what it meant was more aligned to this job that she turned down. 

So she made the decision to reach back out to the recruiter and she’s now been working there for a while and she loves it because she was aligned to — both employers were great but she wasn’t living some of her values in her current role and she’s now living her new role, having more impact and more influence. 

Another person that I coach, everything was going pretty well at her organization and she was in the later part of her career, so she thinks she’ll work for another 10, 15 years and she said, “You know, I want to make a little bit more impact and I am trying to figure out how I do that” and so as she was doing her inventory, she realized, “You know what? I am doing a lot of these things I am doing in my current role but how can I shift and do even more and what that might look like?” 

So she wanted to live out her value of advocacy in a different way and so she was able to do that in the same role but switching some of her priorities to now have not only her role in sales but also be a key sponsor with some of their employee resource groups and so it doesn’t always mean that you have to change jobs or change roles. It might be doing something just a little bit differently in your current role or how you spend your time in your job. 

Benji Block: That’s so good. As we’re wrapping here, I just wrote on my little whiteboard on my desk, values are like cars and what I mean there is like when I bought my most recent car, this white Honda Insight and now I just see Honda Insights everywhere, right? I see white Honda Insights everywhere I go and it is just because now I am in tuned with it. Now, I pay attention to it and this exact same thing is true with what you’re saying here with values. 

Once we know our values and we can name it, we start to see them everywhere or the opportunity to increase how we lean into life in those values, so I really appreciate the work you’ve done on this book and this idea of values first. I think it is going to impact so many. Let me ask you this, when someone finishes your book, when a woman picks this up and reads it, what do you hope their main takeaway is? What do you hope the main feeling is as they complete the book and go back to life? 

Laura Eigel: Yeah, thanks so much for this question. I hope they take action. I hope they take action on one thing and then I hope they sustain it and I really hope that the workbook is something that people can put into practice and just use consistently. I think if you do even one thing, build one new boundary and do that consistently, it is going to change a piece of your life whether that’s at work or not and that’s the biggest thing. I want people to read it but more so, I want them to take at least one action from it. 

Benji Block: I totally agree, that’s great. Laura, besides checking out the book, tell us where we can find the podcast, where people can reach out to you. 

Laura Eigel: You can reach out to me at our website, You can find me on LinkedIn and then also you can listen to the podcast called, You Belong in the C-Suite, wherever you listen to podcast. 

Benji Block: Fantastic. Well, it’s been such an honor to discuss the book. I will say the title here one more time, Values First: How Knowing Your Core Beliefs Can Get You the Life and Career That You Want. It is on Amazon now so we encourage everyone, go get that book. I know it’s going to be a great resource for so many. Laura Eigel, thank you for joining us on Author Hour today. 

Laura Eigel: Thank you so much for having me.