Lose Delusions, Wake up to Behaviors

How many of us have explicit, written-down Values at our companies?  Great!  How many of us have Values that are memorized 100% (no ‘umms’, ‘er’s’ or “almost!”) by every single team member, without exception?  Bravo!  Even Better!  Now, here’s the million dollar question: How many of our team members are explicitly trained to BEHAVE those values during every shift? Here’s a useful exercise, as a starting point to track values as behaviors. When you do a walk-through at your facility or office, do you observe team members explicitly behaving your company values when:

  • They interact with each other (colleague to colleague, team member to team member)?
  • They interact with clients?
  • There’s downtime in between client-focused work such as incoming calls, walk-in customers or hands-on customer service time?
  • They are cleaning, stocking, organizing or doing other facility-maintenance work?

If your answer is, “Yes!  100% absolutely!” – congratulations!  To go deeper and get even more dialed-in on what excellence in behavior-based work looks like, write down explicitly what behavior you observed or experienced that lead you to answer, “Yes!”.

Example: “When team member Casey reached for a disposable wipe to clean up a spill in the break room, another team member, Mark, said “Hey, a better option is to use one of these new reusable cloths we got for cleaning.  With the cloths, there is less waste and less re-purchasing of plastic containers when one of these canisters of wipes is gone.  So we save money, and we put less waste and plastic into the environment. Here, let me grab a cloth for you!”

Leader: Values that I observed as trackable behaviors during this interaction:

  1. We communicate openly, honestly and intentionally.
  2. We hold ourselves and each other accountable for our actions and attitude.
  3. We strengthen our community. We leave it better than we found it.
  4. We are fiscally healthy.

Follow Up Conversation with team members:

Leader: “Mark and Casey, here’s what I really appreciate about the interaction I just witnessed ( now state data piece #1, state data piece #2 – both observable data pieces that I witnessed during the interaction).  My question for you both is: Which of our Values did Mark behave during the course of that interaction?”

Key points to hold as we coach behaviors:

  • Let the team members share their observations – which Values as behaviors stood out to them?  Be sure to celebrate what they share, especially if it’s Bullseye in line with what you, too, experienced!
  • If they are unable to clearly state a value that showed up as a behavior, ask them “What’s one thing you do know about what you just experienced?  What are you sitting with?  If you had to name one value that showed up as a behavior just now – which one would you pick?  Great!  Now tell me why you picked that one!”
  • Be sure to truly celebrate and reward the behavior of tracking the behavior!  Team members who are trained and empowered to seek out, notice and reward your values as behaviors are engaged, action-oriented and ultimately results-oriented. They have the tools within themselves to shift their own actions and create their own results.

Conversely, if we do a walk-through and observe behaviors that are NOT our values-in-action – we can have the same conversation with our team, but now we ask, “So in the interaction you just had, which of our Values showed up in your behaviors?”. And most importantly – “What behavior shift will I see from you moving forward, to know that I am seeing you actually behaving our Values?”.  Mutually agree on the behaviors that the team member will shift. Start small as they build the bandwidth and the “muscle” to hold what they are working on in a given week.  Maybe ask them for two, or even just one behavior that you will clearly see shift moving forward.

Now, as a leader – remember the behaviors that your team has committed to shifting (go ahead and write them down so you don’t forget!) and watch for them in the hours, days and weeks to come.  As soon as you see or experience the new behavior in action – drop what you’re doing, make a beeline to that team member and CELEBRATE!!  Make it a big deal (because it is) and make it clear the positive impact this behavior shift has on you, on the team, on clients, and on the company!

  • Remember: It’s much more effective to think, “Today I’m going to observe and coach behaviors” than to think “Well, we have good team members and bad team members.  We have rock stars and we have so-so’s.  My job is to reward great people and course-correct people who are struggling.” The truth is ALL of our team members are great people!  Some behaviors we have in our companies are effective, and some are not.  Pinpoint the effective behaviors at every opportunity and CELEBRATE them in a visible, intentional way!  Identify the ineffective behaviors and talk with your team members about what specifically will change moving forward, to shift behaviors from ineffective to effective!
  • Stay away from the “Carrot or stick” leadership model. Sometimes, even unconsciously, we train our team to either work solely toward a reward or accolade from a leader or to avoid a reprimand. This external locus of control model trains people to be reactionary victims. Instead, waking our team up to their own behaviors, and empowering them with the tools to shift those behaviors trains people to operate on an internal locus of control model. They are captains of their own ships, and they have control over their performance, their results, and their destinies!  The second model creates a team and a company with far deeper buy-in of company goals, as well as self-monitoring and self-managing team members who do not rely on “managers” to police their work.
  • This is HUGE!!… Adopt a daily practice of tracking and observing your OWN behaviors as a leader and as a member of the team.  Be real and honest with yourself. Which values as behaviors are you demonstrating explicitly to yourself, your family and your team? Do you have any blind spots?  Any delusions you might be holding onto?  Are there areas of your life that you say “Sure, I value ___________!” but your trackable behaviors tell otherwise?  If the answer is yes, don’t panic! Don’t beat yourself up!  Ask yourself the exact questions you would ask if you were coaching a team member. Decide which behaviors will shift so that you and those around you will see and feel your values in action.  Write them down and commit to them.  Then do the work, even when it’s hard. Going through this daily practice will not only improve your life and your work, it will give you invaluable insight to use as you coach others on this road.

Behavior-based leadership and coaching gives us more pragmatic tools to use as we lead our teams. We rely less on finding “the right people”, which is leading by luck.  Instead, we can train, coach and guide the behaviors we need to see in our team and in ourselves.

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