Who can relate to seeing posters with values and behaviours pinned on the office walls? Perhaps they even looked pretty impressive with a fabulous infographic, some inspiring quote and bright colours yet… the people don’t live true to them?
Have you ever had a leader, that talks about how important it to be honest yet you know they are twisting the truth to a customer or not coming clean about the risks of a new project? Yep. Me too. Too often.
Organisations are too focused on getting the values and behaviours on the wall and thinking that is enough. It’s not. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that they are not important. They are. It’s vital to have some agreement of how we want to behave, lead and engage with each other, our customers and our suppliers. But they are not the panacea for change.
They are just the beginning.
Many years ago I was sitting in my workplace boardroom listening to the CEO talk about the new values that will ‘lead our business into the future’. He spoke about respect and trust, about innovation and diversity. Many of us gave each other subtle ‘eye-rolls’ with a mild up tilt of the chin and the ‘I know what you’re thinking’ kind of face. We all knew that he would be the first to ignore these values and fall back to the ‘my way or the highway’ style of leading. This speech became another reason for us to feel disengaged and actually damaged trust and respect. The very thing he was trying to drive. How ironic.
Values and behaviours do not transform cultures.
It’s how we behave, how we deal with each other, how we communicate that transforms. Not the words. Susan Scott says, that happens ‘one conversation at a time’.
The Harvard Business Review paper; ‘Why Change Programs Don’t Produce Change’ which talks about the 4 year study, found that the ‘greatest obstacle to revitalization is the idea that it comes about through companywide change programs, particularly when a corporate staff group such as human resources sponsors them’. Ouch!
They suggest that successful change is not about ‘participation’ of behaviours and values or ‘culture’ but focusing on what we are trying to achieve in the everyday and the work itself.
So it’s safe to say that if we focused on becoming better at having conversations that matter, then we are likely to become better at the implementation of great strategies, building the performance of our people and building great relationships with our clients. Which all leads to a fully engaged workforce and a profitable business. Boom!