Great Bosses Design & Align Teams

Compass and Map, MacroI’m coaching a senior leader of a new culture client. He and his senior leadership team have gotten off to a great start with their culture refinement, including (with my help) drafting their organization’s values and behaviors.

This week, they’ll share this draft statement with the organization’s entire workforce, asking for their feedback. The senior leadership team will take in those suggestions, and refine & publish the values and behaviors within a month.

Once their values standards are published, the real work starts. Senior leaders have to model the values and behaviors in every interaction. They must hold the rest of the organization’s leaders, managers, and supervisors accountable for demonstrating these values and behaviors. To enable accountability, they’ll do the first run of their custom values survey in six months. In this survey, employees rank the extent to which their bosses and the organization’s leaders demonstrate the values and behaviors, providing hard data about values alignment in their company.

This leader recently asked me for examples of values-aligned organizations. I have my favorites – and it was easy to send him to to peruse their listing of the world’s most ethical companies for 2012. 143 companies from around the globe made the “ethical cut” this year. Ethisphere has a rigorous evaluation process that includes ethics compliance, leadership reputation, innovation, governance, corporate citizenship, and a culture of ethics. The winners of this annual award set the standard for high performing, values-aligned organizations worldwide.

Great Bosses Consciously Create Aligned Teams

In our experience and review of our own and others’ research, we have never found an organization that “backed into” a consistently high performing, values aligned corporate culture. These cultures are intentionally created; their leaders leave nothing to chance.

Senior leaders must first design their desired culture through:

  • Clear Performance Expectations
  • Clear Values Expectations

Senior leaders must then align all plans, decisions, and actions to those expectations through exceptional accountability practices. These practices include positive consequences (for aligned efforts), redirection (for slightly off track efforts), and negative consequences (for badly mis-aligned efforts).

The single most important alignment component is the organization’s leaders. Every leader, from the C-suite to front line supervisors, must demonstrate alignment to the organization’s purpose, values, behaviors, and performance expectations, every moment of every day. They each must be of “one heart, one mind, one voice,” committed to role modeling their desired values and behaviors. They can credibly align others to the values and behaviors only when they have fully embraced them, themselves.

Alignment activities are never “done.” Senior leaders must tend to this task daily, ensuring the right leaders are in place to support their desired culture. When aligned leaders act, they are rewarded. When mis-alignment occurs, they are redirected or “released,” removed from employment. The desired culture can only thrive when tended diligently and lovingly by the organization’s leaders.

Join in the conversation! How well do you or your bosses create high performing, values-aligned teams? Share your insights in the comments section below.

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  • Mark Deterding

    Great message Chris. You do a super job of capturing the importance of being intentional about this process. And the most key aspect of institutionalizing the desired culture is the understanding by the leaders that this is a never ending journey. Once the purpose, and behaviorally defined values are developed and shared the work has just begun. In my experience this is where the process often breaks down. Leaders have to keep this desired culture at the forefront of every meeting, and everything they do, focusing on their personal efforts to model the way and constantly share their expectations in this area – as you say “every moment of every day”. Thanks for the work you do in helping leaders through this process!

    • Thanks so much, Mark! I keep YOU in mind as I examine senior leader’s best practices for proactive culture management – you are the BEST.

      You’ve hit on a key point – where the system breaks down is in the day to day cultivation & maintenance of the defined culture. Simply announcing new values and behaviors does NOT align plans, decisions, and actions!

      Thanks for being a beacon of servant leadership and culture management!



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