08 Dec Be Consistent: The Value of Behaviors
When my husband and I were having our first child, the guests of our baby shower put together a book of advice for us novice parents. My mother-in-law’s advice was memorable and, as it turns out, effective for any leadership position: she said simply, “be consistent.”
As a business leader, “being consistent” may seem impossible as the context is constantly shifting: new players enter the market, the business grows from a scrappy start-up to a more mature and layered operation, or a global pandemic turns the landscape on its head. While leaders ask their teams to flex and adapt to new realities, they can offer reassurance through consistent actions and through clarifying the behaviors expected from everyone.
Get specific with supporting behaviors.
Many companies have defined core values, often with descriptive statements that detail how or why a value is important for the organization. However, without the context of supporting behaviors, it can be hard to know how to live those values. When At Your Core partners with an organization to help codify their core values, we get specific about what they look like in action.
By articulating “on value” behaviors, you arm every employee with clarity. Behaviors help to create a shared understanding across the organization because they are both actionable and observable. Everyone knows what’s expected of them and what they can expect of their co-workers. Behaviors also provide a common language to talk about actions that are productive as well as those that are detracting from the goals of the organization or culture—which makes giving feedback easier and more objective.
Acknowledge the shadow side.
It is also important to recognize that behaviors can have a shadow side—this is what happens when the behavior is taken too far, or weaponized. For example, a behavior of “get it done” (meant to empower everyone to act, be proactive, and reinforce their agency) may inadvertently lead people to feel they need to deliver even under extreme circumstances or when given short timelines. To prevent this, we often recommend the additional step of outlining misguided behaviors, which, for the example above, might be something like “expecting heroics.”
The combination of behaviors and misguided behaviors provides a clear lexicon for the organization and helps leaders to remain consistent in what they are asking for, and how they themselves are living the values.
Establish consistency by defining behaviors.
If you are ready to provide your organization with the consistency, clarity and shared understanding that comes from defining behaviors, where do you start? How do you identify those behaviors that will support your business and foster a productive culture? One approach we use is to ask, “what behaviors do your teams need to exhibit to ensure you meet your business objectives? And, if everyone repeated those behaviors consistently, what would that unlock for your organization?” Thinking through these questions helps to identify and prioritize the behaviors that are imperative for the short and long term success of your company and your culture.
You’ll know you’ve landed on the right values + behaviors when they feel authentic, achievable and aspirational to your organization. If the answer is yes to all three, you have a compelling guide for your employees and yourself. You can “be consistent.” Which, as my mother-in-law so astutely pointed out, makes all the difference.