Build an Intentional Culture: Tie Values to Behaviors
Intention is defined as a determination to act in a certain way. Let’s highlight the word “act” here. While many organizations have values that create intention, oftentimes the values are not being tied to desired leader and employee actions. In other words, there is a need to define how your employees behave in everyday situations to demonstrate the organization’s most critical values. It sounds so simple, yet it is often overlooked.
Take “respect” as a value example. Many of our clients have this as a value. However, to one employee, respect can mean telling someone the absolute hard facts that come to mind for a particular strategy. AKA tell them how it is – be a straight shooter - it is to their benefit. On the other hand, to another employee, respect means allowing someone the space and ability to figure it out for themselves. AKA don’t be overbearing – be a supporter, coach more – it is to their benefit.
Both interpretations are “right.” So the real question is: What does your culture expect? You must answer that question. And now we will dig into four critical pieces to tie behaviors with values and create more intention with your culture.
Survey Your Employees
The first step is to specifically ask how employees demonstrate your company’s values. Whether you insert questions into a current employee engagement survey or create a new survey for this purpose, it is very critical to take the pulse on the current definitions and actions. For instance, with Fierce, we would ask: How do you as an employee innovate with intention? What specific behaviors are shown? Why?
After collecting responses, do an analysis to see whether the behaviors demonstrated are serving the organization’s goals and objectives. These survey results can be shared with the executive team and other champions in the organization.
While this may feel like a very “soft” exercise, it is important to establish a “behavior baseline” and really assess what training and engagement are needed. The leadership engagement is critical in ensuring that everyone has the same expectations for how people should act.
Train the Specific Skills
Effective training creates complete clarity around how one should behave or act in a situation. To tie behaviors to values, the training should have a “common language” component where everyone in the organization can use the same basic skill sets and frameworks, regardless of levels. If the values need to be exhibited throughout every level of the organization, the behaviors trained need to be as well.
Whether you hire a vendor who specializes in training or you build training from within, there are two common pitfalls to avoid: too much theory and not connecting with people’s emotions.
Firstly, the main goal is to remove the mystery of how values look and show up in your organization. Steer clear of highly theorized content that is not immediately actionable. Realize that training is an opportunity to make your values come to life in a manner that is accessible for everyone and improves every employee’s ability to do their job and connect to their company culture.
Secondly, it is important to connect with people’s emotions. It is one of the only ways that real behavior change happens. In Harvard Business Review’s How Company Culture Shapes Employee Motivation, after surveying 20,000 workers around the world and conducting experiments, they found that why people work determines how well they work. Training MUST connect to people’s why. Self-generated insights should be created in the training, and oftentimes, that piece is not as strong as it could be when organizations roll-out their training.
Build Feedback Capacity
The skills to give, receive, and ask for feedback are some of the most sought after leadership skills in today’s business world. The skill is tied to new performance management, employee engagement, manager effectiveness, and the list goes on and on and on. In order for your values to continually align and stay on course, employees at every level must be able to share feedback.
In our Fierce feedback model, we talk about waypoints. A waypoint is typically used for purposes of navigation and acts as a reference point to help know where we are and where we are going. Whether we are driving, or flying, waypoints help us get there. The point is, we rarely get to a destination in a completely straight line. We need to go through continuous course corrections to arrive at our destination. Feedback can be seen as a series of waypoints to keep us headed in the right direction – for our careers and for our companies.
Ensure that your managers and leaders have the skill to use feedback as a critical tool, so they can share when fellow employees and the organization are swaying. As an organization, do not make this exercise a one-time endeavor – continually take a pulse to learn and stay in tune with any shifts that may be happening in your culture.
While building culture may feel like an ethereal task, there are tactics to bring the company culture you desire to life. It takes hard work and perseverance. And it’s worth it.