Are You Demonstrating Your Organization’s Values?

We are all familiar with the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words.” In a business setting, senior leaders look for a match between an organization’s values and the day-to-day actions of its people. This is completely valid and can be a way to assess if values are just words on the wall and on the corporate website, or if they represent a true commitment.

What we sometimes forget is that actions communicate a message, and when the context and commitment in the background are not made explicit, our actions can get us into trouble!

Managing the network of conversations

A key component of transformational leadership is managing the network of conversations inside the organization, as well as with external stakeholders. The network of conversations in an organization gives shape to the context in which people work and to the organization’s culture. Actions emerge from the network of conversations; however, it is also useful to examine and share the context for our actions, or they will occur by default, dictated by culture: often unnoticed, but highly influential. Some elements of organizational culture support the future the company is committed to, while others may actually hinder it.

Have you noticed we are interpretation machines? Have you also noticed that we do not always choose the most empowering interpretation of a person or event that impacts us? One of the executives I was working with recently shared that when he accepted a new job as the head of a company, he made a request to establish an office in the city in which he lived. After many years of commuting, he wanted to live and work in the same city. His request was accepted by the Board. The majority of the company’s employees were located about two hours away, by plane, and for them, the executive’s choice of office location could be interpreted as “we don’t count enough for him to be here with us;” a possible interpretation, but only one of many.

Taking a stand, and sharing it!

As a leader, how do you demonstrate your values in action, “on the court”, in a way that speaks loud and clear to the entire organization? Actions are not enough, as they may be interpreted in a way that creates a disempowering context.

Are you making sure your stand, i.e., your choices and your values, are explicit and understood? In the case of the executive above, his commitment was to “people having a life that works,” professionally and personally. This stand resonated with the team when it was shared, and created a big opening for people to feel comfortable in expressing what was important to them and make requests that were a match for the organization’s values and commitment.

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