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Encouraging Core Behaviors

Taking the Next Step on Core Values

Last week we talked about Attitudes and Behaviors, and how managers and leaders must identify specific behaviors when coaching direct reports. Let’s continue that thread, and spend some time with Core Values and behaviors. Simply put, our core values are “identified values that govern how we will behave, make decisions, and treat one another.”

Core Behaviors

Many organizations today have a Core Values Statement posted on their website, on the wall at their home office, or even on the back of their business card. The question is, have these organizations clearly identified BEHAVIORS associated with these stated core values, and identified BEHAVIORS that might be in conflict with these stated core values?

For a better understanding of the importance of identifying behaviors, let’s take the core value of “Honesty.” Grab your three closest friends, buy them all a cup of coffee and ask them how they would define honesty, and how they would determine whether someone is “acting with honesty.” Even that statement “acting with honesty” changes the thinking somewhat from asking if that person is “honest.”

What do Core Behaviors Look like?

When I am asked if a person “is honest” I tend to think in terms of “do they lie, cheat, or steal.” When I am asked “does that person act honestly” I tend to think in much broader terms. When asked that way I tend to consider, “What is the person’s intent?” Do they tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Is their intent to be honest, truthful, and accurate in all that they do? Do they deliver as promised? When an organization claims honesty as a core value, does that mean they treat all of their clients fairly in all circumstances? Are clients given realistic expectations for production and delivery? Are customers communicated with quickly when circumstances change? Are bills paid on time and as promised? Is all software used as promised, or are licenses shared and software pirated?

Honesty is a very broad word. Let’s examine all of our behaviors, policies and procedures to ensure we do not have existing violations of our own professed core values.

How about the simple core value of “kindness?” Keeping in mind that we are running a business and the business requires a certain level of performance and production, are our managers and leaders trained to give feedback in a manner that is honoring of the receiver? Are they instructed to give feedback often and regularly, both affirming and adjusting feedback? Do we have policies and procedures in place that accommodate our performance and production needs while still honoring the needs and difficulties of our workforce?

I have mentioned several “behaviors.” Everything from timeliness to policies and procedures that govern specific behaviors. I have mentioned feedback and training. If our professed core values are really our core values, we must teach our workforce what it means to behave according to those core values. It is so vitally important to ensure that every employee understands each core value in the same manner as the organization does. Core values cannot, MUST NOT, be passive. They MUST be active.

Values Based Organizations

Core values are far more important than policies and procedures. In a “values-based” organization (as opposed to a “rules-based” organization) the core values bar is much higher than the rules bar. Behaviors will be identified and adjusted long before a person approaches a “rules” violation. Which would you rather work for?