Being in the Know

By John Blumberg, Andersen Alumnus and author of Return On Integrity (

Last week, I was on a first-time call with a new connection. Well into the call, he randomly asked me how I knew one of my LinkedIn connections. Fortunately, out of my hundreds of connections, he asked about one who I know well. We aren’t just connected … we know each other! If words matter, you might say that LinkedIn picked the right word … for connections is a good description. Facebook on the other hand, in using the term friends, made a bit of a stretch. That same stretch may well be at play when it comes to our core values. To say that you know your core values may be a bit of a stretch too.

Even if you can list them!

This has made me realize how I’ve been misusing the word “know” in my work on core values. I can’t begin to recall each of the hundreds of times I’ve said, “most people do not know their core values.” The statement is true. And now I understand, truer than I meant! What I have been precisely trying to say is that most people can’t list their core values. In other words, can’t specifically name them on a blank sheet of paper. And that is true.

Most people consider themselves values-based … or they have a gut-feel or intuition about their core values. So being able to identify/name them is a big step forward. It’s hard to live what you can’t identify. Yet, being able to identify them is not enough. In fact, for many, it feeds a false assumption:

If I can list them, I know them.

When asked about my LinkedIn connection, I really did know him. We have shared common experiences … both good and bad … together. We have engaged in meaningful conversations. And we trust each other. There are other LinkedIn connections who I know even better … based upon even more common experiences and much deeper conversations. And then there are others in my LinkedIn account where I simply appreciate being connected. I trust that you can relate via your own social media accounts.

The process of getting to know your core values starts with a thoughtful exploration. An intellectual brainstorm mixed with a fair amount of silence and discernment. In fact, you likely will develop numerous drafts of lists in attempting to identify your core values … lists that include behaviors, wants, needs and values. Over time, you will narrow each list … and eventually make a claim of what you think are words that identify your core values.

At that point, you can celebrate for having identified them. It’s a really important step forward. Yet, it will be way too early to claim that you know them. In so many ways, at this point, you have just met them.

Knowing your core values is realized through the relationship you develop with them. Through living with them … and through them. Through taking them into your current life conditions … your day-in and day-out experiences. It is through these daily common experiences with them and nightly reflections upon them that you get to know them. Your needs, wants and behaviors will be transformed by them. However, unlike a skill or behavior, the goal is not to get better “at” your core values. It is about developing a relationship with them.

You get to know them … and they get to know you.

As you get to know each other better, you will be surprised how much more valuable each of your core values become than the word you initially put on your list to best name them. Just because you know someone’s name doesn’t mean you know them. The same is true with your values. I have often said, “In your search for core values, you won’t find them. They will find you!” I suppose the whole truth is that you find each other. And in doing so, you might say, you become great friends.

John G. Blumberg is an Andersen Alumni, a national speaker and author of several books including his just released book, Return On Integrity: The New Definition of ROI and Why Leaders Need to Know It. It is available on Amazon and at major bookstores. You can connect with John at