Home >

If You Could Change One Thing About Our Organization’s Collective Behavior, What Would It Be?

Many organizations develop a list of values–conduct they uphold as their guide for the behavior of all employees. These values are often published and distributed. Too often, these values are thought to be real just because they’ve been put on paper, but they become fiction in practice. Values are too important to exist only on paper– they need to live in an organization’s daily activities. The challenge successful leaders should give themselves is to use their values as a measurement and evaluation tool. Leaders need to praise and encourage the good behaviors, monitor the difference between actual and desired behaviors, and correct bad behaviors before they become institutionalized.

The challenge for most leaders is to maintain an accurate picture of the real state of their workplace. This question can help you do just that. When leaders

Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.
–Erica Jong, American writer

understand that organizations, like people, have both good and bad habits, there is potential for positive change. Finding the gaps between what gets said and what gets done gives you a place to start.

Think about what you would (and have) done when confronted with situations where your stated values have been contradicted. If you say you have respect for people in your values statement, would you fire your top salesperson because they repeatedly berated the clerical staff? If you value creativity, would you decline a job because you couldn’t see any way of adding innovation to the client’s existing processes? If, according to your mission statement, customers come first, would you withhold a bonus for the vice president of customer service when your customer service targets were missed? What about your own bonus? Do you practice what you preach?

Believe me, if you don’t live your stated values, there will be gaps between the behavior you want your organization to practice and the behavior I’d observe if I spent time with your people. Finding those gaps should be your priority, unless, of course, you want to revise that value list you so proudly print in your annual report.

This question begs for a follow-up. Try this one–How can we get our behavior back on track?–and listen well.