Once upon a time a team was asked to create behavioural standards regarding their soft skills and team behaviours. They happily created a list of 10 laudable behaviours. They designed pretty posters of the list, hung them on the walls, and then went about life as before. The posters faded – just another piece of wallpaper.
Soft Skills and Team Behaviours
Creating standards is a fantastic way to align the behaviours and soft skills of a team, but just writing down “nice ways to behave” does not create an excellent culture. Culture, as defined by Edgar Schein in Organizational Culture and Leadership, is the accumulated shared learning of [a] group as it solves its problems of external adaptation and internal integration; which has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, feel, and behave in relation to those problems*.
This means that it is deeply imbedded into everything your team does, and is the reason that business and leadership guru, Peter Drucker, said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!” If your vision and strategy do not align with your current culture, then you’ve got some work ahead of you if you want your strategy to make it to lunch.
Start with Standards
Our earlier team was on the right path but here are some tips that would have made them more successful:
1. Align your standards to the vision.
First, clearly define your vision beyond the vision statement. Next, imagine yourself living that vision. How are people behaving, interacting, problem solving, learning, or responding? Identify those specific behaviours, and these will become your standards.
2. Ensure that each standard is meaningful to all.
Clearly define what each standard means and share with your teams. You may want to hold formal discussion sessions, but you need to be living them every day. Correct improper behaviours, encourage aligned ones. Discuss why you’re doing things and live the standards in your vision.
3. Make a plan to implement each one.
Plan to spend focused time discussing, implementing, and practicing each behavioural standard, one at a time. This gives prominence to each one individually, which will clarify how important they are. Setting small, realistic goals is the best way to implement behavioural change and ultimately will change culture.
1. Edgar Schein with Peter Scheen, Organization Culture and Leadership, 5th ed. (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2017), 6.