Should you focus more on behaviours or on values in your culture journey?

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AUTHOR
Jerome Parisse-Brassens

Both values and behaviours form part of your culture, so in theory you could use both to shape your culture the way you want it. However, at Walking the Talk, our preference goes to behaviours. Let me explain why.

Behaviours are observable. This means that you can give someone feedback on their behaviour because you have something tangible to work on, and through feedback you can help them change the way they do things to align it more with the culture needed for the business. Behaviours also allow to create clarity for employees and this clarity allows them to know what to do. Working with behaviours avoids ambiguity; with behaviours you can easily set standards. They make culture do-able.

Of course, if you already have existing or target values, you should not forget them. Values describe culture at the deepest level along with feelings and beliefs. However, they are not as clear as behaviours, and most of the time, you will need to clarify the behaviours you want them to drive. So, we’re back to behaviours.

  • While behaviours are the best tool at your disposal to shape culture the way you want, there are a few things to keep in mind:
  • Avoid long lists. There is nothing worse for culture change than a long list of behaviours to adopt. This scares people off and creates confusion. Confusion is the enemy of culture.
  • Identify the key behaviours that will enable your strategy. Link them to the business outcomes you want. Clearly establish this link in people’s mind so that they understand WHY you are asking them to display specific behaviours.
  • Create a simple culture narrative that starts from the business imperative and links back to the key behaviours, what you expect from your people and what’s in it for them.
  • Build an assessment tool around your key behaviours. We find that a 360 feedback tool based on the behaviours you want to see in people is a great way to create a jolt of awareness and build the role models you need for true culture transformation.

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