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It is in whether you live the values yourself

Mostly, you have to model the behaviours you want and you cannot demand things of people that you aren’t prepared to do yourself. If you are the leader of a business or team, it means that you have to be an exemplar of everything that business stands for. You can’t do things that seem hypocritical when compared with the things you say. That’s very dangerous.

The biggest danger is saying that you want one thing but inadvertently sending a message that says you really don’t. This is a communication phenomenon called meta-messaging. A meta-message is an unspoken, implied message that we unknowingly deliver when we are communicating. The meaning of the meta-message is so strong that it overwhelms your message and leads to people interpreting what you say very differently. Meta-messages can kill trust and openness in the workplace. The very worst of these other meta-messages are those around company values. If you put the values up on a poster on the wall but all of your behaviours are inconsistent with the values, then people will treat the organizational values with the contempt they deserve.

Why go to the bother of putting values up if you have no intention in following them? It would be far better not to bother, because you would then at least not be creating dissonance – the ultimate thief of credibility.

I often advise leadership teams to be very specific about defining the behaviours that they need to deliver as a team in order to exemplify the values of the organization. This requires thinking about the behaviours that will send powerful signals into the organization, agreeing to abide by them, and holding each other to account when you don’t deliver on them.

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