Teaching people to “walk the talk”

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.

One thought on “Teaching people to “walk the talk”

  1. I don’t really know about you, but who really “walks the talk”, and what does that even look like anymore? People in organizations and especially during these trying economical times are being a bit selfish and morals and values are being pushed to the side. So when we are talking about organizations once again defining their values and making them stick, maybe what Senior Executives should first focus on are their own personal values. Speaking from a generation Y’s loud mouth, “we” don’t need to see another example of behaviors that are expectable at work. Trust me, we get it, were smart cookies (just ask our helicopter parents). Common sense is high on our radar and what we eventually end up looking at are slip ups in values that our leaders make. i.e. Former Pres. Clinton, Former Pres. Bush. How do you expect us to trust you if you keep telling us one thing but do the opposite? Baby steps leaders..baby steps.

Leave a Reply