Efforts linked to values and behavior can’t be pigeonholed as a “human resource initiative” or a “risk management process”; they can’t be driven solely by legal counsel or compliance officers. They must be initiated and directed by senior leaders responsible for the overall direction of the enterprise.
Your leaders need to actively support it, communicate their expectations that all employees do the same, and demonstrate with their own behavior that it’s important to them personally. If any piece of this pattern is missing, employees will immediately pick up on the mismatch and perceive that the change isn’t that important after all.
Getting leaders involved in launching and supporting civil treatment efforts is one of the cheapest ways to see real change. For a little bit of executive time, you will see a huge uptick in employee engagement.
Leaders as living apps
A good friend of mine was charged with building a global inclusion strategy for a world-renowned pharmaceutical firm…. He told me about advances his firm was making in learning. Because there are now multiple delivery platforms, his company’s leaders can easily access learning modules on topics such as how to hire and engage new employees. There are avatars that can be adapted to simulate situations in different nations and cultures. My friend raved about the multiple apps for learning and completing just about every task.
I decided to challenge him … “If relying on one-size-fits-all packaged training and avatars and all that other stuff alone is so great… tell me, what apps are you going to use to teach your grandson to be kind, ethical, decent, and honorable, just like you? Where are you going to find the app for that?”
He paused. Then he looked me dead in the eye and said, “I’m the app. That’s my job. I’m the app.”
And that’s the point. Some lessons, especially those dealing with how we act and apply values, have to be delivered by the right “instructor” outside of any formal classroom environment. The learning platform must be human—direct and credible. There’s no technology, no interactivity, no Learning Management System, and no clever avatar that can replace the power of a grandparent saying to a grandchild, “This is important. I want you to remember this. Here’s a lesson you’ve got to learn to live and work by.”
The same is true for instilling values in your organization. … Like my friend, we as leaders must say, “Some lessons have to come from me, in real time, to be heard, understood, and applied. For those vital lessons, I’m the app.”