“The world is full of people that have stopped listening to themselves or have listened only to their neighbors to learn what they ought to do, how they ought to behave, and what the values are that they should be living for.” – Joseph Campbell
I like to give people credit for being fairly intelligent. I like to believe that everyone has at least a basic level of common sense. I like to think that there is a limit to how ‘dumb’ people can be. I also like to think that most people have some fundamental level of knowledge about what is right and what is wrong. Unfortunately, all of those thoughts are routinely tested.
It seems as though virtually every day we hear stories about businesses who are dealing with some sort of poor behavior. It doesn’t always rise to the level of being a crime, but it’s at least unprofessional or unethical or dysfunctional. Quite often it’s employees of the business who are behaving this way (although leaders are certainly far from exempt). And almost without exception the leader seems stunned that any of the employees would behave this way.
While there is no single, all-encompassing explanation for bad behavior, I do believe that at times in our organizations we take our core values for granted. Too many leaders assume that the people who work for them know ‘how to act’. Too many leaders make a speech every few years where they use a few words like ‘integrity’ or ‘ethics’ and then think they’ve done their job. Not enough leaders consistently and intentionally stress the importance of organizational values on a regular basis.
We’ve talked a lot in this space about consistently communicating the company vision so that it becomes ingrained in everyone who’s part of the business. When you’re communicating that vision, are you including the part of the vision that says what kind of behavior you value? Or is it just about growth, opportunity, etc.?
More importantly than just talking about them, are you modeling those values? You can’t emphasize the importance of certain behaviors one minute and then completely ignore them the next. Your walk has to match your talk.
Don’t make assumptions. Make it a point to emphasize those values that are crucial to you. Talk about it regularly. Live it always. I’m not suggesting that you’ll never have to deal with bad behavior, but it’s a lot easier to deal with when what you value is clear to everyone around you. Make sure your people know who you are.