Tag Archives | Values

Values – espoused or desired in corporate culture

The Power of Praise

Years ago I was a teacher and coach at a small Catholic girls high school in Southern California. I learned a valuable lesson while there that continues to guide my interactions with others to this day.

I was a volleyball player in high school and college – even USVBA-rated for a while – and assistant coached at the college level. When the opportunity arose to take a teaching position and serve as varsity volleyball coach at the high school, I jumped at it. (No pun intended.)

I began working with the team, building fundamental skills in passing, setting, hitting, and defense. I instituted a defensive system and offensive plays that leveraged the starter’s skills, and the team responded well. We began having successes (winning games!) after years of being the doormat team in a very competitive coastal league.

I had just married at the time and inherited two step-children – Karin, then 14 years old, and Andy, 10 years old. I never had kids of my own so I was a total newbie. Wife Diane tried to guide me – at times, I was teachable. Karin was a volleyball player, as well, so love of the game created some neat bonding opportunities for the two of us.

Once a week, Karin would finish her practices then scurry over to our gym where she helped run drills for my team for an hour or so. After practice, Karin and I would grab a quick bite to eat then head to the local recreation center for three hours of doubles play. The local community was filled with very good volleyball players – we lost more than we won. We got better as the season wore on but never were one of the top teams at the center.

A few months after our weekly “volleyball nights” began, I was driving Karin home after a very good showing one evening. We’d played well and took some matches against teams that regularly beat us. We were both pleased – and sweaty and tired.

Karin turned to me and said, “You’re a really good volleyball coach. You work hard to let your team members know what you expect of them. You break down skills into specific steps they can get good at, and praise them when they’re doing things the way you want them to.”

Wow! I was really pleased to hear Karin say that – and, I’ll admit, I puffed up a bit, thinking, “Yup, I’m a very good coach, and Karin’s lucky to have me in her life . . . ”

Then Karin said, “You never praise me.

Clunk. I stuttered a bit, and told her, “Well, I have higher standards of you.” Karin said, “That’s not fair.”

A couple of minutes of silence let me figure out what to say – and do! – next. I apologized, saying she was right, I wasn’t being fair. I remember trying to praise her for her efforts that evening, and got a small smile out of her. In the months (and years) following, I tried to be more aware of what Karin was doing right – on and off the volleyball court – and believe I improved in expressing my gratitude at her skills and contributions.

That conversation happened 30 years ago – nearly to the day. Karin’s insights helped me realize that I have a very well honed skill at catching people doing things WRONG. If I want to be an effective influencer, I need to catch people doing things RIGHT. I work on this every day, with clients, peers, and bosses. I’m not great at it yet, but I’m better. Practice makes perfect!

What helps prompt you to express thanks and gratitude for others’ efforts and contributions? Share your insights in the comments section below.


Subscribe to Chris’ mobile updates, texted right to your smartphone! Text VALUES to 72000 or head here.


Chris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips can be found on YouTube. Subscribe to Chris’ YouTube channel.


vimeo_logoChris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips are also available on Vimeo. Subscribe to Chris’ Vimeo channel.


podcast_subscribeSubscribe to Chris’ posts via RSS.


itunes_subscribeListen to or subscribe to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on iTunes.


The music heard on Chris’ podcasts is from one of his songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2017 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). He played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Chris will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, Chris only recommend products or services he uses personally and believes will add value to his readers. Chris is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Moral Courage to conduct Difficult Conversations


I recently facilitated a culture change process kickoff with some of the finest men and women I’ve ever met – uniformed and former Marines who are engaged in a continuous process improvement effort across the Marine Corps. Blanchard has highlighted the US Marine Corps for years as one of the most values-aligned organizations on the planet. The Marine values of “Honor, Courage, and Commitment” are the foundation of every interaction, in and out of war zones, for every Marine. For life.

Yet, like all human organizations, sometimes the focus on productivity dilutes the commitment to values alignment. The incredible pressure of wartime and multiple fronts may be unique to our military, but the challenge of delivering consistent high performance while always modeling desired values is common across organizations worldwide.

In our session at the Marine base in Quantico, VA, one of the program’s leaders shared insights from one of his best bosses in the Corps. This officer helped Joel learn an important nuance of what courage means in the Marines. The officer differentiated two different kinds of courage: physical courage and moral courage. Physical courage is demonstrated when a physical reaction is required – pulling a wounded Marine out of harm’s way or jumping into the driver’s seat of a vehicle to move it out of the line of fire, for example. Moral courage is demonstrated when a Marine sees behavior that misses the Marine standard, and a difficult conversation is required.

Joel explained that physical courage is trained into the “body, mind, and spirit” of Marines so demonstrating it is simple, immediate. Joel’s best boss believed that moral courage is more difficult, and, without it, leaders are ultimately ineffective anywhere they serve.

It does not take moral courage to observe a Marine’s dress uniform askew; it takes moral courage to pull him or her aside and ask that it immediately be fixed. It does not take moral courage to observe a direct report deliver poor service to a customer; it takes moral courage to ask them to sit down, discuss what you observed, and help them commit to different behaviors that will “wow” their customer in the future.

A lack of moral courage means that accountability for expectations – both performance expectations or values expectations – is inconsistent at best and absent at worst. This “optional” culture typically translates into poor quality of products and services, inconsistent customer experiences, and unfair treatment of employees within the organization.

Moral courage does not mean that you deliver messages with anger, frustration, or a demeaning approach. It means that you conduct difficult conversations with care and caring, expecting the best from your follower, facilitating and coaching their clear understanding of both the expectation and the behavior required to meet that expectation.

If you want a high performance, values aligned culture, you must clarify performance and values expectations and then hold all leaders and staff accountable for meeting (or exceeding) those standards. Be bold with praise and encouragement when leaders and staff deliver performance the right way. Moral courage will help you conduct those needed difficult conversations along the path towards your desired culture.

What successful or not-quite-successful difficult conversations have you experienced over your career? Share your insights in the comments section below.


Subscribe to Chris’ mobile updates, texted right to your smartphone! Text VALUES to 72000 or head here.


Chris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips can be found on YouTube. Subscribe to Chris’ YouTube channel.


vimeo_logoChris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips are also available on Vimeo. Subscribe to Chris’ Vimeo channel.


podcast_subscribeSubscribe to Chris’ posts via RSS.


itunes_subscribeListen to or subscribe to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on iTunes.


The music heard on Chris’ podcasts is from one of his songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2017 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). He played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Chris will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, Chris only recommend products or services he uses personally and believes will add value to his readers. Chris is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Making Your Company Values Measurable

One of the most important elements of the high performance, values-aligned culture is a set of company values that are measurable, tangible, and observable. If values are not measurable, it is impossible to consistently hold leaders and staff accountable for those values.

In most organizations, values are defined in lofty terms that are difficult to translate into practical, day-to-day application. Without clearly defined behavioral guidelines – describing exactly how a “great corporate citizen” behaves – each leader and staff member can define those values as it suits their personality, role, and activities. If you don’t behave according to how I uniquely define “honesty,” for example, my trust of you is eroded. The result over time? Loss of respect, increased stress and anxiety, and inconsistent treatment of employees and customers.

Let’s take this example from a company that has been in the news recently. This firm has fourteen business principles that “guide how we do business and conduct ourselves on a daily basis.” One of those principles reads, “Integrity and honesty are at the heart of our business. We expect our people to maintain high ethical standards in everything they do, both in their work for the firm and in their personal lives.” On their website we see no further definition, no specific behaviors, that would describe how staff should demonstrate this value. The firm? Goldman Sachs. Their newsworthy behavior? Mortgage fraud.

To make your company values actionable, follow these steps to define your values in behavioral terms.

1. For each value, brainstorm potential behaviors that you’d be PROUD to see all staff demonstrate when they’re modeling this value. Note that we say “demonstrate” because we cannot measure nor hold people accountable for what they “think,” what their “attitude” is, or what they “believe.” We CAN, however, measure AND hold people accountable for demonstrating (acting on) clearly defined behaviors.

2. Cull through the behaviors to reduce the list to three to five behaviors per value. Answer these questions to help with the selection process:

  • Is this an observable behavior? Can I assess someone’s demonstration of this behavior by watching and/or listening their interactions with customers, peers, and stakeholders? If NOT, toss it.
  • Is this behavior measurable? Can I reliably “score” this behavior from low to moderate to high at any point in time? If NOT, toss it.
  • Is this behavior unique to a particular function or unit? The behaviors for these “organization-wide” values must be global (relevant to all staff). If the behavior isn’t one that is appropriate for all staff members (no matter what function or unit they serve in), toss it.

If you have not identified 3-5 behaviors for each value that meet the criteria above, go back to brainstorming (step 1). Cull through those until you have selected the best, most descriptive 3-5 behaviors for each value.

3. For each behavior, define three key measures: “exceeds standard,” “meets standard,” and “needs improvement.” This step helps develop the assessment tool that your organization will use regularly to gather data on how well staff members (at all levels) are modeling these valued behaviors. Let’s use an example from an actual client to map out how this works.

Value:  Integrity

Definition:  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.

Behaviors:

  • I clearly define the commitments I make, ensuring my promises are well-understood by the person I’m making that promise to.
  • I do not lie, stretch the truth, or withhold information from a peer, customer, or stakeholder.
  • If I am unable to keep a commitment, I inform all people who will be impacted immediately.

Exceeds Standard:

“I willingly make promises and commitments. I proactively keep people informed of my progress. I let others know if, despite my best efforts, a deadline will be missed. I rarely miss promised delivery.”

Meets Standard:

“I make promises and commitments in the present, keenly aware that I’m guaranteeing my performance on that promise. I consistently deliver what I promise.”

Needs Improvement:

“I am hesitant to make promises or commitments. I don’t always keep people informed about my progress. My ‘word’ isn’t highly trusted among my peers. Delivery of expected results are inconsistent.”

Note that each valued behavior requires a separate set of measures. Ensure that each measure truly gauges only one behavior (not multiple behaviors).

4. Test these measurements with key players throughout the organization. The best approach is to create a draft “community values” questionnaire/assessment/survey and pilot it with a few teams. Refine it to the point where you are confident it effectively measures these valued behaviors. NOTE: Survey development is a unique skill. Use a Blanchard process coach to ensure the validity of assessment items.

5. Survey the entire organization using your custom values assessment, twice each year. Publish results throughout the organization in as many ways as necessary to ensure all staff know how the organization is doing with the goal of “modeling our values.” Reward those folks who are seen as demonstrating desired valued behaviors and coach and redirect those who have values gaps. When you find staff who are unable to consistently demonstrate desired valued behaviors, lovingly set them free – help them out of the organization.

Are your company values defined in observable, tangible, measurable terms? If so, how well are the those behavioralized values lived day to day? If not, what values are lived in your organization? Share your experiences in the comments section below.


Subscribe to Chris’ mobile updates, texted right to your smartphone! Text VALUES to 72000 or head here.


Chris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips can be found on YouTube. Subscribe to Chris’ YouTube channel.


vimeo_logoChris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips are also available on Vimeo. Subscribe to Chris’ Vimeo channel.


podcast_subscribeSubscribe to Chris’ posts via RSS.


itunes_subscribeListen to or subscribe to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on iTunes.


The music heard on Chris’ podcasts is from one of his songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2017 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). He played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Chris will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, Chris only recommend products or services he uses personally and believes will add value to his readers. Chris is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Executive “Team” or just a “Group”?

In my 20 plus years as a consultant, I have worked with dozens of executive teams. One interesting thing I discovered: many of those “teams” aren’t teams at all.

Most executive “teams” are a group of individual senior leaders who meet on a regular basis to battle each other for limited resources: funds, people, time, praise (that’s a topic for another blog), etc. They leave their meeting and evaluate how they did in the game: did I “win” today? Did I secure the resources I wanted and beat out my senior leader colleagues today? Each individual senior leader tracks his/her score and the game begins anew the next meeting (more accurately, the next day).

When companies using our proven culture change process are successful at creating their desired high performance, values-aligned organization, this single consistent best practice stands out: the executive team must be actively committed to the culture change and to each other. If the executive team does not act with “one voice, one heart, and one mind,” the culture effort is doomed from the start.

To unlock the potential of your organization’s executive team, consider these four best practices:

  1. Clear Purpose: The executive team must define it’s reason for being – beyond their relationship as direct reports of the president/CEO. The purpose statement clarifies why the team exists, who their primary customers are, and what they’re trying to accomplish as a team (provider of choice, employer of choice, etc.).
  2. Team Goals: What strategic goals is the executive team trying to accomplish? Clarifying executive team goals helps define what a good job looks like at the end of their fiscal year. Performance goals might include employee work passion targets, customer service excellence, financial success, etc.
  3. Values & Norms: Values defined in behavioral terms describe HOW team members should behave as they pursue their team goals. All effective teams create agreements around what a good citizen of the team looks/acts/sounds like. Values are typically too vague and lofty to guide day-to-day actions, so behavioral definitions solve that issue. Team norms emerge from the valued behaviors – norms are practical guidelines that ensure values are lived in team member interactions.
  4. Accountability: With the team’s purpose, goals, and values formalized, the most important practice comes into play: holding team members accountable for these agreements. Accountability is not the sole responsibility of the executive team’s leader (typically the president/CEO) – it is every team member’s responsibility. Accountability conversations are not drawn out conflicts – they are conversations that inquire about a valued behavior or norm, asking for insights about demonstrated behavior that seems to be outside those agreements. They are sincere efforts to understand behavior and guide members to embracing their agreements.

When these four agreements are in place, decision-making is easy. Executive team members easily understand their role in furthering the team’s purpose by cooperating, communicating, and focusing on the greater good.

Change your executive “group” to an aligned executive team and you’ll reap the benefits: less drama, less conflict, more aligned action, better productivity, and more fun!

Rank your executive group on it’s “degree of teaming” using a 1-5 scale. Share your experiences & scores in the comments section below.


Subscribe to Chris’ mobile updates, texted right to your smartphone! Text VALUES to 72000 or head here.


Chris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips can be found on YouTube. Subscribe to Chris’ YouTube channel.


vimeo_logoChris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips are also available on Vimeo. Subscribe to Chris’ Vimeo channel.


podcast_subscribeSubscribe to Chris’ posts via RSS.


itunes_subscribeListen to or subscribe to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on iTunes.


The music heard on Chris’ podcasts is from one of his songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2017 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). He played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Chris will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, Chris only recommend products or services he uses personally and believes will add value to his readers. Chris is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Creating a High Performance, Values-Aligned Culture

The media has had a field day with the collapse of ethical leadership in many large corporations over the past few years. Companies have had their executives pilloried in the business press for behavior that rewards the few at the top while penalizing employees and customers.

In our studies of effective organizational cultures, we found abundant evidence that leaders who are clear about their company’s reason for being (purpose) and who define what “good corporate citizens” look like (values) are able to deliver and sustain both performance and employee satisfaction over time. The creation of a purposeful culture—one that holds employees accountable for exceeding performance expectations while modeling the organization’s declared values—is critical for business leaders in today’s marketplace.

Two Blanchard colleagues, Garry Demarest and Bob Glaser, and I developed a proven culture change process to help senior leaders create a high performance, values-aligned culture.

Developing a high performance, values-aligned culture requires three integrated steps. They are:

  1. Defining the organization’s purpose and values,
  2. Defining performance expectations, and
  3. Leveraging these declarations with accountability systems.

In simpler terms, culture creation is about consequence management—making plain both the outcomes needed and the appropriate ways to accomplish those results, and providing immediate consequences (positive or negative) for every staff member.

Some organizations attempt to define their culture by establishing elaborate purpose and values statements, and then publishing these statements far and wide—posting them in the workplace and on company web sites. However, the most effective approach is to draft straightforward declarations of purpose with values defined in behavioral terms, which enable values metrics to be established. Few organizations go to these lengths. Without a behavioral definition of values, confusion reigns when staff members try to hold each other accountable for those values. An example might prove helpful.

“Integrity” is a value embraced by many organizations. One company did an admirable job of defining it for their staff: “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.” This value is clearly defined, but evidence of behavioral definitions of this value is missing. Worse, there is evidence of inconsistent accountability for demonstrating these values. History proves that these issues lead to some very costly decisions in the executive ranks at this organization. The company? Enron.

Making Values Measurable

In contrast, one of our clients worked harder to make their “integrity” value actionable. They defined integrity as: “Each commitment we make is a promise. We do what we say we will do by keeping our commitments to our peers, our customers, and our stakeholders. We honor our team members, customers, and shareholders by acting on our company values, demonstrating these valued behaviors daily.” The leadership team then defined the “behaviors that model our commitments to our commitments” as the following:

  • I make promises and commitments in the present, keenly aware that I’m guaranteeing my performance on that promise.
  • If I hold any doubts that I can deliver on a deadline or requirement, I communicate with all key partners what I can and cannot commit to at that point in time.
  • I hold team members accountable for the commitments they have made, seeking immediate performance when a deadline has been missed. I listen fairly and work to help my team members keep their promises.

If you were a staff member in this organization, you would have little doubt about how you must behave with integrity, day-to-day, with internal and external customers.

Clarify Performance Expectations

The second step in creating a high performance, values-aligned culture demands that performance expectations be clear for each contributor in an organization. Ken Blanchard says, “All good performance starts with clear goals,” yet it is amazing how unclear goals are in many organizations. Organizations can help contributors gain an understanding of their performance expectations through formal planning forms or more informal discussions with leaders and customers. The critical outcome is for everyone to agree on standards for key goals. This step reduces confusion, clarifies targets, and focuses efforts for everyone.

Hold All Staff Accountable for Performance and Values

The most important step at this stage is to create accountability systems to ensure performance is delivered using the agreed-upon valued behaviors. Such systems include performance management, feedback tools, incentives, and recognition and rewards. Leaders must reward staff members who are performing well and who are modeling the valued behaviors, while redirecting those who don’t. Over time, consistent application of these consequences will lead to a critical mass of staff and leaders who are high performing, values-driven assets.

Feedback tools provide valuable insight into the perceptions of staff members and leaders. We created an assessment tool that offers quantitative feedback to leaders about the extent to which their organization is modeling the best practices of a high performance, values-aligned culture. Confidential responses are gathered from leaders and their direct reports, and are then presented in a profile format to measure differences between employee and leader perceptions. One item in the assessment states, “Team member behaviors indicate strong alignment with the team’s purpose and values.” Scoring is based on level of agreement with the item, from 1 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree). In one client organization, a division leader we’ve been working with ranked this statement as a 6, while his 14 direct reports ranked this statement across the spectrum (1 through 6), with an average ranking of 4.1. The difference of nearly two points clearly indicates that the valued behaviors are not as strong as the leader believed. Thus, insights gained from these assessments help leaders modify systems or behavior in order to increase accountability for performance and values.

The process of creating a high performance, values-aligned culture requires consistent attention by company leadership and day-to-day reinforcement by managers throughout the journey. It can take 18-24 months from the process kickoff to achieve the demonstrated values-aligned behaviors across the organization. Each step taken progressively builds understanding of performance expectations and commitment to behaviorally-defined values, and accountability systems will reinforce the commitment of the organization to creating a purposeful culture. While this is not a process to be approached casually, the increased employee commitment, company performance, and satisfaction derived from working in a values-driven culture more than compensates.

To what degree is your company living a high performance, values-aligned corporate culture? Share your insights in the comments section below.


Subscribe to Chris’ mobile updates, texted right to your smartphone! Text VALUES to 72000 or head here.


Chris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips can be found on YouTube. Subscribe to Chris’ YouTube channel.


vimeo_logoChris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips are also available on Vimeo. Subscribe to Chris’ Vimeo channel.


podcast_subscribeSubscribe to Chris’ posts via RSS.


itunes_subscribeListen to or subscribe to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on iTunes.


The music heard on Chris’ podcasts is from one of his songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2017 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). He played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Chris will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, Chris only recommend products or services he uses personally and believes will add value to his readers. Chris is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes