Erin Porteous is the CEO of The Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver. I have enjoyed working with her over the past few years. She is a down-to-earth person who strives to provide excellent leadership to her amazing organization. I asked her to share her closely held or core leadership values. The lenses she looks through evaluating her leadership as well as shaping the culture of her team and organization. I believe her work is worth the read.
Four Values: Hard work, Humility, Humor and Honesty
As leaders, we all have core values that we live by. Intentional leaders align both personal and professional values to make a succinct focus for anchoring priorities and ensuring consistency across all facets of their lives. The highest caliber of leaders consistently demonstrate a commitment to values even when no one is around. This is called integrity. The interesting part is these micro-actions aren’t grandiose in nature but rather small responses every single day through practice, consistency, and habit.
Here are a few simple examples of values practiced with integrity:
- Putting the shopping cart in the corral at night in the parking lot when no one is around when it’s faster to just leave the cart right at the front of your car (it won’t move right?!)
- Restocking the toilet paper at work.
- Fixing the printer that you jammed even though no one knows you did it.
Most often when you find a leader who values ‘hard work’ at their job you also see it in their home life. Odds are, hard work is what got them to a position of leadership. For another example, if someone believes in nurturing and growing others, they may ignite passion in work colleagues and tend to exhibit a strong EQ and commitment to the relationship in their personal lives.
Those who truly have defined and refined their values don’t opt in and out depending on the setting, but rather, identify a set of principles and values to live by and then anchor themselves to those defining truths in all aspects of their lives.
Reflecting on My Values
As I approach the ‘mature’ phase of my professional career, I can now reflect on my values and how they came to be over the years. We spend a good portion of our early years learning our values. Often times we can’t even articulate that we are doing so, but our brain is constantly taking in information and then determining if it aligns with our constructs of how we believe the world works, or if it doesn’t we pitch it.
As we mature in our careers, we start to take the lessons we’ve learned, the philosophies we have seen, and frankly our observations of our bosses and colleagues to solidify what we like and don’t like. From my career, one of the elements that have shaped my beliefs and style is seeing what I don’t want to be like in how a boss treats me or others. If you are going through that now, don’t discount the lessons you can learn through this experience. Sometimes it’s easier to identify what we don’t believe in, than what we do (especially when we are young!).
Core Leadership Values
My four core values for my professional and personal life have remained the same without much deviation through the decades; Hard work, Humility, Honesty, and Humor.
The difference is, in my younger years I was just living the values – and they launched me to the point I am at in my career today. But I wasn’t in a place where I could talk about what they were and how they defined me.
Today, I can articulate my values, and share them with others. These four values guide me as a believer in God, a spouse, a mother, a daughter, a sister, the current Chairman of a prominent business group, and the CEO of a $20 million dollar company with more than 250 employees. The point is that you won’t see me act upon these in some roles in my life while being dormant in others. My commitment to my values shines through all of the faucets, and one of the hardest is probably parenthood – the forever humbling role where I think I’m teaching my kids and really they are instructing me on all the true things in life that matter most. So let’s define what these values mean to me.
I’ve held a lot of jobs through the years. It started with babysitting in middle school, then I moved into working in the hospitality field much of high school, college, and my twenties to supplement my nonprofit wages which weren’t enough to pay all my bills. One of my jobs was working with food vendors at large concert festivals. I recall one night when the musicians had gone back to their hotels, concert-goers had fled for their cars, and I was standing in a small refrigerated cooler truck counting tortillas so we could run our end-of-show inventory and reconcile the night. My fingers were so cold they were shaking and I kept losing count of around 150 tortillas – which mattered since we charged by the unused product. There wasn’t anything cool about my job, it was in fact kind of miserable.
But it was in that moment of hard work that I figured out two things: I didn’t want a job like that forever and I would work even harder to ensure that wasn’t my fate, and, doing that kind of hard manual work, taught me to persevere. To stick with the hard stuff even when I really didn’t want to. Back to my earlier point, leadership isn’t one thing, it’s a repetition of actions over and over, at an office, in relationships, and even when no one is looking and no one will know many hundreds of tortillas are left…except me.
When my brother and I were growing up, my Dad was insistent that we say ‘I was wrong’ when we were…well…wrong. As a kid, it was kind of an annoyance but as an adult, it’s been fundamental in my willingness and ability to own my own actions. Whether it’s with my husband, my kids, or a work colleague, when I goof up I’m able to ‘own it’ so we can call it out and move on. The action of saying I’m sorry I was wrong gives us the ability to swallow our pride (a hard thing to do) especially when many parts of society tell us that self-worth comes from building ourselves up. Humility is one of those simple but hard values to live by.
There are two parts of honesty. The first is honesty to self. If we first and foremost are not honest with ourselves, we will never venture out of a stage of self-awareness to drive change and action. The second part of honesty is how we converse with others. As leaders, where the commitment to honesty can have the most impactful value is through courageous conversations with those we care about. It’s that little Jimmney Cricket telling you ‘You need to approach that difficult topic…you need to state your feelings around that issue that keeps reoccurring and why it’s bothersome’. It’s easier to avoid the most important part of the conversation, honesty pushes us into a space of being authentic, transparent, and courageous.
This category has been present through my work for more than 15 years working for a kid organization. We can never take ourselves too seriously, because humor is a great equalizer and one of the moments where we can be reminded of the joyful parts of life. Kids remind us of that every day. One of the successful components of humor is that it is usually most effective in the present tense. Yes, we can recall a past event that was funny or plan something that we think will make someone giggle in the future, but belly-rolling, and laughing out loud often happens when we are present in the situation. And that reminds us to be present, in all situations, giving our all, not our half while the other part of our brain is on our smartphone, surfing the web, or lost in our own thoughts.
Explore More Content
If you found Erin’s insights about the core leadership values helpful, tune into these Today Counts Show episodes where we feature Erin not only as a guest but as co-host as well. Gain valuable lessons and inspiration from a true leader in action. Start listening today to supercharge your leadership journey!
- Epi. 38: Leadership in the Post-Pandemic World w/ Erin Porteous
- Episode 34: Overcoming Perfectionism with Bella Sirpilla
- Episode 8: Erin Porteous on Leadership
Take the next step on your leadership journey! Explore more content on our blogs and podcast page. Whether you’re seeking wisdom, tips, or a fresh perspective, we’ve got you covered. Advance on your journey today!
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