Communicating Values In Word & Deed

“Identifying and applying ethical values is an important step to creating a highly moral climate.” (Johnson, 2012, p. 334) 

Values are so important because they are a part of the organization’s core ideology—the “central identity or character” of the organization (p. 334).  While many aspects of the organization are often changing and growing, the values should remain the same and serve as an ethical compass for the organization by guiding employee behavior. 

As leaders, we set the tone for our employee’s behavior.  “Leaders are the ethics officers of their organizations, casting light or shadow in large part through the example they set” (Johnson, 2012, p. 318).  Essentially, leaders need to serve as ethical role models to their followers by embodying the organizational values through word and deed. 

As was previously discussed in our blog post about Character, the second C of leadership, leaders must be “clear about their personal values and beliefs…[and] keep people and projects on course by behaving consistently with these values and setting an example for how they expect others to act (Kouzes & Posner, 2006, p. 3).  Nothing undermines an organization’s values quicker than a hypocritical leader.  If I claim that “teamwork” is one of our values, but I regularly take all of the credit and blame others for my mistakes, others will quickly recognize that my true value is “self-serving.”

In contrast, leaders should embody the organizational values in such a way that by following in their example, their employees should also act with the organization’s values in mind.  Successful implementation of ethical values means employees “learn to govern their own behavior by following these same principles” (Johnson, 2012, p. 329).

While walking the talk in this way is incredibly important, it is surprisingly not enough in this instance.  Leaders must also talk the talk.  Words without action may be meaningless, but action without words can easily be overlooked in the busy, sometimes hectic, marketplace.  Therefore, as the ethics officers for their organizations, leaders must continually communicate the organization’s values to their employees.  This involves: (a) discussing the values with one’s team so everyone is clear on what they are and what they mean; (b) highlighting how new initiatives and goals reflect the organization’s values; (c) linking performance reviews to the values; and (d) mentioning them in everyday conversations.

For example, if one your organizational values is “innovation,” you could introduce the implementation of a new sales software system as such, “As part of our dedication to thinking outside the box and trying new things to propel us forward, we will be implementing a new software system to help us keep track of our sales records.  As we implement the program, please let us know what works, what is challenging, and any solutions or ideas you have for even better application and implementation.”  Doing so explains the decision to use the new software in light of the organization’s value around innovation and also invites the employees to engage in innovation by suggesting new and better ways to use the program.

Overall, what is most important to note is that communicating the values cannot be once and done.  They cannot be mentioned one time and then be hung on the wall to die.  Instead, communication must be on-going.  Employees need to be reminded of the importance of organizational values and their ethical responsibilities through the leader’s words and actions on a consistent basis.

References:

  • Johnson, C.E. (2012). Meeting the ethical challenges of leadership: Casting light or shadow (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Kouzes, J. & Posner, B. (2003). Student leadership practices inventory.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve

Level 5 Hierarchy

What catapults a company from merely good to truly great?  A five-year research project searched for the answer to that question, and its discoveries ought to change the way we think about leadership.  The most powerfully transformative executives possess a paradoxical mixture of personal humility and professional will.  They are timid and ferocious.  Shy and fearless.  They are rare – and unstoppable.” ~Jim Collins

If you have never read Jim Collins’ landmark book, Good to Great, make sure you read his classic article from the Harvard Business Review, “Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve.”  

Managing for Organizational Integrity

Too often organizations don’t realize that ethical failings are leadership problems–not just a lone employee’s shortcomings.  Here’s a great article about the importance of leaders building an ethical organizational climate based on shared values and purpose written by Lynn Sharp Paine, “Managing for Organizational Integrity.”

“From the perspective of integrity, the task of ethics management is to define and give life to an organization’s guiding values, to create an environment that supports ethically sound behavior, and to instill a sense of shared accountability among employees.” – Lynn Sharp Paine

Importance of Leading Oneself

Leadership is about influence, service, and transformation.  First, leadership does not come from positional authority; rather it is based on influence.  Second, it is the leader’s job to serve the people.  For as leadership-expert Larry Spears states, “True leadership emerges from those whose primary motivation is a deep desire to help others and see them grow” (1998, p. 3).  Finally, successful leadership is about transformation—the transformation of individuals, organizations, and even broader culture.  It is in this transformation piece where professional development plays a key role.

Transforming culture requires transforming organizations and institutions, and transforming organizations and institutions requires transforming individuals.  Therefore, culture cannot be transformed without individuals being transformed.  As Peter Drucker (1999, p. 11) writes, “The need to manage oneself is therefore creating a revolution in human affairs.”  Essentially, one must effectively lead oneself before attempting to lead others.

Once one has taken the time to understand oneself: personality, learning styles, strengths, weaknesses, etc., one has the responsibility to understand that others are just as unique.  Then, instead of rejecting those differences, one is able to see them as complements.  It allows one to create and lead a team where others’ strengths balance one’s own weaknesses.  Or, in the words of strengths-expert Marcus Buckingham (2008), “A great team player volunteers his strengths to the team most of the time and deliberately partners with people who have different strengths.”

The important question then becomes, how does one lead oneself?  One important way one can learn to lead oneself is through professional development.  Some professional development tools we use at Inta-Great include: the DiSC Profile, The 360 DiSC, StrengthsFinder 2.0 and Strengths Based Leadership, The Truth About You, and a listening profile—among other things.  All of these assessments are meant to help individuals understand more about themselves and the way they think, feel, and act.  On top of these tools, identifying personal values, writing personal mission and/or vision statements, setting SMART goals for one’s life, and developing a relationship with a mentor are all great professional development exercises.  And more formally, professional courses/seminars and advanced education also constitute professional development.  And yet, professional development is not only confined to resources outside of oneself, for as Donald Schon (1983) is quick to point out, the reflective practitioner is a resource onto himself.

The reflective practitioner is one who engages in reflection-in-action as a means of professional development.  Reflection-in-action takes place when one thinks about what he or she is doing while he or she is doing it.  This allows one to conduct mini-experiments, apply theory to a situation, and, in real-time, evolve the theory until the desired results are achieved.  This reflection-in-action allows one to recognize the tacit understandings which have been guiding one’s actions, perhaps even hindering one’s effectiveness (Schon, 1983).  Schon (1983, p. 68) sums it up when he says, “When someone reflects-in-action, he becomes a researcher in the practice of context….[he] constructs a new theory of the unique case.”

Overall, professional development, through both external resources and internal reflection-in-action, is the foundation of self-leadership.  Then, self-leadership is the basis for personal transformation.  And finally, personal transformation is “the breath that sustains our ability to lead others” thereby transforming organizations and institutions, and ultimately culture (Manz, 2001, p. 16).

Resources:

  • Buckingham, M. (2008). The truth about you: Your secret to success. [Video]. (Available from Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, TN)
  • Drucker, P. (1999). Managing oneself. Harvard Business Review, 77(2), 64-74.
  • Manz, C. (2001). The leadership wisdom of Jesus. San Francisco: Brett-Koehler.
  • Schon, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. NY: Basic Books.
  • Spears, L.C. (Ed.) (1998) Insight in leadership. New York: Wiley.

Why Does Leadership Development Matter?

Times are tough.  We are in the middle of a recession.  That’s the truth and there’s no getting around it.  As an executive you may think, “Yes, I believe leadership training and organizational development work is important, but I just can’t afford it right now.”  Well, think again.

According to the world-renown research institute, the Gallup Organization, businesses that have optimized employee engagement have 2.6 times the earnings per share (EPS) growth rate compared to organizations with lower engagement in their same industry.  On the flip side, within the U.S. workforce, Gallup estimates the cost of disengaged employees to be more than $300 billion in lost productivity.  Ask yourself a question—can you afford that?

What makes an employee “engaged?”  Engaged employees sense alignment between an organization’s vision, values, and everyday practices.  And most importantly, engaged employees have the opportunity to do what they do best everyday—they work from their strengths.  In fact, Gallup reports that employees who have the opportunity to “focus on their strengths every day” are six times more likely to be engaged in their jobs.

Inta-Great will come along side you and help your organization create alignment around a clear vision, mission, and values.  We also have programs designed to help your employees become more self-aware, understand what their strengths really are, and learn how to communicate those strengths to you and their peers.  But it can’t stop there—for real change to take place you need to know what to do with that information.  That is why Inta-Great offers services to help you achieve organizational transformation.

The last thing very successful companies have in common is great leadership.  Credited leadership expert Jim Collins has found that great leaders—“Level 5 Leaders”—garnered stock returns at least three times the market’s for 15 years after a transition period So while it important for your employees to be engaged and working out of their strengths—it is important for you as well.  Organizational culture is created from the top down; therefore, Inta-Great offers many services and programs for C-level leaders.

There is one important caveat—this is not a “quick fix.”  Transformation is a process not an event Real change takes time and commitment.  It is not easy, but our team at Inta-Great promises to support you and provide you with all the tools you will need as you grow yourself and your organization to greatness.