Are You Living Your Values or Just Talking About Them?


When Jim Malecha was named the CEO of Egan Company, his predecessor said, “I know how strong your faith and ethics are. You will make sure the company sticks to that.” And indeed he has prioritized people over profits and consistency over comfort.

At work, it’s easy to be self-defined by what you do rather than who you are. It’s so tempting to measure your value by the scoreboard and what others think about you. But Jim has stayed firm in his commitment to his values. They aren’t aspirational posters on the wall. For Jim, they are real. His integrity is an inspiration.

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When I asked Jim where that unwavering commitment comes from, he reflected back to a pivotal moment in his life.

During his freshman year in high school, Jim’s son suffered from a form of depression called seasonal affective disorder. It was a very difficult time for the entire family. His son went through a period of homeschooling, and they weren’t sure he’d graduate. Jim wondered whether the family would get through it emotionally. To guide his own response, Jim started every morning “in prayer and devotionals.”

“That was a pivot point in my life toward a more intentional faith focus,” he told me.

Now his faith is as strong as it’s ever been. A day rarely goes by that he doesn’t spend the first 15 minutes at work alone in his office. “If I don’t have that time, I feel off, and I have to make an effort later in the day to spend time alone. It sets me up to be more intentional in my leadership of the company, my relationships at work and home, and my physical health.” He goes on to say:

If you say you have faith and don’t live out your personal values, you don’t really have faith. As a CEO, I’m constantly under a microscope. I’m not an evangelist, but I live my personal values and the values of the company. If I am anything, I am consistent. I am congruent. I look at my personal values and our work values often so that I remember what’s important.

With my ‘work family’ or my family at home, you can count that I will do what’s right, to live within the values. I hope that’s how I’m remembered. And, like my predecessor, it’s what I will look for in the person who follows me.

Values describe who you are, as a person and as an organization. Like Jim, you and I are constantly under a microscope. Whether you’re the CEO or in an entry-level position, everyone around you considers your choices—how you treat people, what you prioritize, how you talk and what you won’t do.

What can people count on you to do?

Aspirational posters are nice, but they’re meaningless if your actions don’t reflect those carefully crafted words. Let’s take a page from Jim’s book and spend the first 15 minutes at work tomorrow alone and with intention. Here are some values-revealing questions to consider during that time:

  • Do I treat all people with care and concern?
  • Do I prioritize serving others—or gaining from others?
  • Do I talk with grace and respect?
  • Do people know that I won’t break promises—or violate my principles?

It’s incredibly tempting to go with the flow rather than stand firm in the waves. How will you be remembered?

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