Chris Edmonds, our senior consulting partner who presented Revitalizing the Downsized Organization last week once told me, “Without a behavioral definition of values, confusion reigns when staff members try to hold each other accountable.”
In other words, people need to see an example of the kind of behavior that’s expected of them at work. Without it, there’s too much room for individual interpretation. While each of us may have an individual interpretation of what honesty, openness, and responsibility means, what’s really important is how the organization defines it. And even more important is to provide people with living examples (read senior leaders) who walk the talk of the organization’s values.
As an example, Chris showed me how one large Fortune 500 company defined “Integrity” in their organization:
We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly and sincerely. When we say we will do something, we will do it; when we say we cannot or will not do something, then we won’t do it.
Think for a moment about what the senior executives in this organization would look like. What would they be doing? How would they run meetings? How would they manage direct reports? How would they interact with customers?
It’s important to get a clear picture of what the behavior that goes along with this definition looks like. Without it, you don’t have a clear set of behaviors that you can hold people accountable to. And when that happens, you’re setting yourself up for trouble down the road. Just ask the customers, investors, and employees of Enron—the former Fortune 500 company mentioned above.