High standards of behavior are required for organizations to successfully complete their missions. Leaders are responsible for setting, training, and enforcing standards in order to create a culture where standards are voluntarily followed. Organizations that establish and expect compliance with standards attract Ike minded applicants. Employees, volunteers, and other stakeholders learn to trust the organization, know the character of their workers, and understand their leaders.
It takes time to codify standards of behavior. Your standard operating procedures, protocols, employment guidelines, and similar documents will be easier to write when everyone knows and understands the organization’s core values or guiding principles. Governing documents misaligned with organizational guiding principles encourage people to act outside those principles. Well written governing documents aligned with core principles ensures people understand how to behave even when they do not know a specific rule. Written rules are shorter, easier to understand, and are more likely to be followed.
Often SOPs, employee manuals, and other written rules take many pages. If the reasons a document is written is based on the core principals, there is no need to restate they whys. Employees who understand the guiding principals will see them in the rules without additional explanations. It is uncommon for all of those documents to be composed at the same time. If the whys are not all based on the common principles, then the authors need all those extra words and pages to spell out the whys for the rules.
Employees, volunteers, and contractors follow the rules better because the standards they establish are aligned with organizational principals. Training time is reduced and retention increased because there is less to teach and learn. As a result, employees will probably do the right thing without even knowing what a rule or procedure is.
Training begins when you first admit someone into your organization. Start with the core principles. Teach your new people what each value means to your group. Give examples of behavior that is compliant and non-compliant. Explain how complying with principles establishes trust across the organization allowing greater effectiveness.
Training supervisors about core principles and methods of enforcing standards is also important. Nothing destroys trust within an organization than repeated reprimands conducted outside the organizational principals. Likewise, failing to correct behaviors outside expected norms slowly eats away at trust developed between key players. Supervisors and other key leaders need to know how to adjust their leadership style to the situation presented.
Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard introduced the idea of situational leadership in the late 1960s. Since then, others have built on those ideas and demonstrated how to apply the principals of situational leadership to a wide variety of circumstances across the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Taking time to teach your leaders how to adapt their leadership style to meet your organization’s objectives and within your guiding principals increases effectiveness.
After training your new people and leaders about your organizations guiding principals, those standards need to be enforced. When new leaders read statements like this they often envision a drill sergeant demanding basic trainees do push-ups for infractions, or a tough CEO calling an errant employee into the office, chewing them out, and then firing them. These are two possible methods of enforcing standards, but neither works well for long.
On-the-spot corrections for misbehavior can be given in a calm fashion that shows respect and caring. A machine operator found working without eye and ear protection can be told to stop. The supervisor inquires about whether the employee understands what the standard is and why it is important to follow it. If the employee lacks the knowledge, the supervisor provides a quick refresher training and sends the operator to don their protective equipment before resuming their work.
A middle manager who observes such a violation might stop the work and inquire about who the operator’s supervisor is. The supervisor is summoned to the work sight. The manager can use this opportunity to coach the supervisor. In the end, the worker is protected, the organization accomplishes its mission, and the culture of compliance grows.
Making corrections in a respectful fashion and demonstrating expected behaviors helps create a voluntary climate of compliance. People know that following the core principals results in rewards. Failing to comply results in punishment.
Some of you reading this are thinking about why the above statements will never work. You think the union will never allow such supervisory oversight. Some think that leading volunteers requires sometimes turning a blind eye. Others think that they are not in a supervisory capacity and therefore have no ability to influence others. If you are a real leader, you use what power you do have to influence others to comply with the organization’s guiding principals. That may require you to allow others to take action.
In the union example, there frequently are requirements for management to follow certain steps to reward good behavior and punish bad. Meet with union representatives frequently to ensure they understand you want the best people in the organization and the important role the union has helping you keep the good people and separating those who will not comply. The union has a responsibility to equally represent all the workers in their membership, those who perform well as well as those who feel slighted because they are not meeting expectations. Such engagements over time bring union representatives around to looking differently at employee-management relationships.
In the case of volunteers, first ask yourself if you really want a volunteer that behaves in such a way that they endanger themselves, others, or have the potential to cast a dark light on the good work your organization does. Think about ways you can influence volunteers to comply with your guiding principals. People who volunteer believe in the cause. They are easier to influence than paid employees, You have to learn to lead them. It is likely that the threat of separation has a greater impact because their association with you is indeed voluntary. Knowing bad behaviors will not be tolerated ensures compliance. Frequently organizations fail to train volunteers to the same level as employees. Is it any wonder that volunteers may not comply with guiding principals. It is hard to comply with standards they do not know or understand. Taking time to help them understand standards and providing examples of compliance improves trust and helps your volunteers work better. Volunteers who work well improve outcomes for those the organization serves.
Leading team members you do not supervise does pose special challenges. FEMA’s national emergency operation center occupies a large room in Washington, D.C. not far from the Capital. Few of the seats in the room are designated for FEMA officials. Most are set aside for leaders of organizations FEMA works with during disasters. Those members include representatives from the press, various classes of industry, financial associations, think tanks, nongovernmental organizations, non-FEMA government agencies, state, and major metropolitan governments and agencies, and a variety of other interests. None of them answer to FEMA; rather they all answer to their respective organizations. Regardless of who employs each team member, FEMA leads everyone in the room to accomplish the common goal of resolving the disaster, preserving life and property, and keeping elected officials and citizens informed.
Accomplishing that kind of leadership occurs because the FEMA officials use a variety of sources of power to influence each team member. The FEMA leader needs to quickly learn about not only the interests of each organization but also the representatives. They have to apply a different leadership style to each situation. FEMA has often been attacked about ineffective post-disaster relief efforts, but when you think about all the competing interests, it is amazing they accomplish anything. To be effective, those leaders need to establish high standards, teach them to the team members, and then enforce them in such a way others willingly follow.
Setting and enforcing standards is a key responsibility for leaders. If leaders do not enforce established high standards, followers accept lower standards. Leaders establish trust by enforcing standards. In time, enforcement creates a climate of voluntary compliance. Training what behaviors comply and fail to comply with guiding principals ensures everyone knows what the expectations are. Knowledge develops into understanding and permits the organization to operate effectively with few written rules. People know what is expected of them, and what they can expect from others. Trust develops that others in the organization behave and perform at high levels and take reasonable risks. Learning to find the right leadership style for different situations allows leaders to coach, counsel, mentor, guide, and discipline others to comply with organizational standards depending on the circumstances. As a result, the people in the organization focus on taking care of clients and accomplishing the organization’s mission.
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