Guiding principles, or values, lay the foundation of character for every organization. A wide variety of people make up organizations, coming from different backgrounds, and bringing different personal and cultural values to the group. An organization’s guiding principles establish what things are important for the organization. Successful organizations establish and ingrain compliance with their guiding principles through training. Using a daily or weekly meeting is an easy way to train employees about the organizations principles.
Let’s say the organization has three guiding principles; loyalty, quality customer service, and finding winning solutions for everyone. Supervisors hold meetings every Monday with their staff. In addition to the regular items, the supervisor includes one of the guiding principles on the first Monday of the month. The supervisor provides the company’s definition of the principles and facilitates a discussion about ways employees can incorporate behaviors into their work lives to live up to the principle. This week they discuss loyalty. The conversation includes loyalty to the company, the smaller group, customers, and shareholders. The meeting breaks and employees go about their work.
During the week the leader moves about the work area looking for opportunities to recognize behaviors that comply with loyalty issues discussed during the weekly meeting. The leader notices a technician on the phone who appears to be talking with a customer. He tells the customer how much he appreciates his loyalty by sticking with company. He explains that he cannot do the repair work for free but will research a discount because of his loyalty.
During the next Monday meeting, the supervisor continues the discussion on loyalty. He starts the conversation by telling the story of the technician who found a way to stay true to the company while rewarding customer loyalty. Next he goes around the room asking others for stories of things they did during the previous week to live the principle of loyalty. Not everyone had a story, but all participated in the conversation. He also facilitated a conversation about how their views of loyalty changed during the week as they focused on different ways to be loyal to all the company stakeholders. The conversation was lively. Eventually the supervisor had to cut them off so they could conduct the business of the company.
The following week, the leader may start the loyalty discussion by telling a story of an experience he had where the principle was the focus of the situation. He opens the floor for others to tell stories. One way to ensure there will be some discussion is to have a chat with one or two employees during the week ending by asking them to share their story at the next weekly meeting.
On the fourth Monday, the group engages in a conversation wrapping what they have learned about loyalty. Again there should be time to allow story telling of application of the principle, but the conversation should shift to lessons learned and how to apply them. Using these steps allows people to be taught about an idea, followed with examples of how to use the idea and concludes by them practicing what they learned. The discussion allows corrections to be made so everyone becomes better and also recognizes behaviors meeting expectations for the particular guiding principle.
On the first Monday of the next month the supervisor introduces the next guiding principle, quality customer service. He follows the same format during the month when they learned about loyalty. The employees are told about quality customer service. They are shown examples of quality customer service. They try and report on their efforts. They are praised for success and coached to improve when they fall short of the standard. The process is repeated the next month for the finding winning solutions principle.
Change up things after going through the guiding principles once . Ask one of the employees in the group to lead the conversation when you return to the first guiding principle. Allow that employee to discuss and introduce the guiding principle. She could lead the conversations about how others engaged in behaviors exemplifying the principle. Repeating the process instills a deeper understanding of each principle and allows employees to further ingrain that principle into their daily lives. As new employees come on board, they learn not only how things are done, but why.
Creating organizational change is difficult. Helping employees improve their understanding of an organization’s guiding principles is one step leading to change. As employees begin to live the principles of the organization, the culture changes. Reinforcing each lesson through reflection of behaviors supporting compliance with organizational principles ensures lasting change. Employees see how small changes improve working conditions and organizational cohesion. Focusing attention on a guiding principle at daily or weekly meetings results in easily training teams about each principle. Try it at your next group meeting.
All photos from Flickr.com with Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Granite wall by Wolfgang Tonschmidt, cropped by author
Group meeting by Tori Middelstadt at UAF School of Management, modified by author
Geese by John Johnson, modified by author