Behaviors Trump Words

How to Define Actions that Help Define Your Culture

You as the CEO want to take your organization to a new level. You have a vision of what you want the organization to look like in the future and you are ready to make it happen. You assemble your leadership team and take them offsite to get the process started. You work on a vision and mission statement and word smith it until you believe it defines the future state. The team is excited, and you head back to work …. Only to have it go in a drawer and business as usual takes over! How can you move your vision forward?

It is important that you develop a transformational communication process that will help your people to understand where the organization is headed. A portion of the offsite is necessary to define the behaviors that the leadership team needs to model that will bring the words of the mission and vision to life. It takes more than definition however people need to be held accountable for their behaviors that work against the mission and vision. Likewise, people need to be recognized for behaviors that demonstrate the new future.

Often organization define core values that help people understand the expected behaviors in the organization. Sadly, the meaning of words lies in people not in the words themselves. People need to understand how the word is defined in your particular culture with clear expectations. Just defining is not enough however because you also need to ensure that people are held accountable for behaving in a manner that supports the values. Case in point, say an organization defines their core values as respect, integrity, communication and excellence. In addition, the organization defines respect as ”We do not tolerate abusive or disrespectful treatment. Ruthlessness, callousness and arrogance don’t belong here.” What does that mean and are the people held accountable? The key is that in this case they were not because these 4 values, respect, integrity, communication and excellence and this definition were the values for Enron who stole billions of dollars from their investors! Clearly their values were not upheld.

The key lies in developing a transformation communication process where values are named and defined at the top. Then behaviors are identified and discussed in a manner where two-way communication can take place. Leaders at all levels of the organization then need to understand the expectation of how they are to communicate the values and a timeline for doing so. It is up to leaders throughout the organization to identify and recognize people whose behavior demonstrates the desired behaviors. Then communicate the examples to the entire organization. If someone’s behavior does not exemplify the desired behaviors, leaders should tie their conversation back to the values and help the employee understand how their behavior was not desirable and how it did not demonstrate the core values of the organization.

Over time and with consistent reward and recognition, employees begin to understand the desired behaviors that will help the organization move forward. Leaders throughout and especially the supervisors are the ones that help an organization to transform.

Your homework:

For the next week, pay attention to how your people treat one another. See where people sit in meetings and how whether they listen to one another. How about the break room, who sits with whom? These indicators will tell you a great deal about your culture.

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