In an attempt to shape a positive culture, many leaders focus on articulating their organization’s mission and values — the why and the how they hope will inspire their teams to deliver. But unless you and your team are truly ‘living’ those values, they rarely translate to real life.
So how do we get from “values on the wall” to “values in action”? The key task is integration of your values into everyday behavior and organizational systems. Both are important, but the latter takes far longer and involves far more work than most leaders expect. Here are four lessons in how to truly live your actions.
You can’t impose culture from outside. Values are deeply personal; people resent having them imposed. Try digging to discover the positive values your people already hold and aim to live every day. From there, you can clarify which values you want to amplify, support, or refresh.
People don’t commit to words on a wall. To be truly committed, your employees need to know: How do these guidelines translate into everyday behavior? What do these values mean we will do…or won’t do? What will the priority be when we have to choose?
No one always lives their values. According to Arup Group founder Ove Arup, we should think of our values as a North Star — as a guide rather than a destination. This means we need to actively look for contradictions and ask other people to help keep us honest.
People expect programs to fade. Dick von Martens, cofounder of the firm SelfLeaders, which helps people clarify and act on their values, suggests focusing on one value every month. During a meeting or over coffee, ask your team: What does this value mean for us now? How important is it to our mission and strategy? How are we doing? Can we take it to the next level? Then, select an action together and see it through.
Are your leaders and employees fully engaged in your values? How can you bring them to life?
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The Feedback Fallacy
The search for ways to give and receive better feedback assumes that feedback is always useful. But the only reason we’re pursuing it is to help people do better. And when we examine that—asking, How can we help each person thrive and excel?—we find that the answers take us in a different direction.
Often there is an overriding belief that the way to increase performance in companies is through rigorous, frequent, candid, pervasive, and often critical feedback. However, the research is clear: Telling people what we think of their performance doesn’t help them thrive and excel, and telling people how we think they should improve actually hinders learning. This lengthy but insightful article pulls apart three theories accepted as truths in the business world, and explores how we can actually help people excel.
The first theory – the source of truth – is that other people are more aware than you are of your weaknesses, and that the best way to help you, therefore, is for them to show you what you cannot see for yourself.
The second is the theory of learning – the belief that the process of learning is like filling up an empty vessel: You lack certain abilities you need to acquire, so your colleagues should teach them to you.
The third belief is that great performance is universal, analyzable, and describable. Once that is defined, it can be transferred from one person to another, regardless of who each individual is. With feedback about what excellence looks like, we can understand where we fall short of this ideal and strive to remedy our shortcomings. We can call this our theory of excellence.
Authors Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall recommend we adopt four new feedback techniques:
- Look for outcomes
- Replay instinctive reaction
- Never lose sight of your highest-priority interrupt
- Explore the present, past, and future.
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