Monday, May 5, 2014

Leading by Example

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I've been writing a lot about the process I used to develop a values statement for my association, and even more about the experiments we've been running to try and make the values and behaviors it describes a more active part of our day-to-day interactions.

Our latest experiment is one of the simplest in its construction. Our values statement has four broad values, and for each value it includes a dozen or so behaviors by which we will know an individual is acting in accordance with the values.

Here's what I've asked everyone to do. Take one of the behaviors--not one of the values, one of the forty-some behaviors that support the values--and make a commitment to more mindfully manifest that behavior in the office. How? By communicating the observable actions you plan to take to your supervisor so that when you take those actions it is clear and obvious that you are acting in support of your chosen behavior.

Simple in construction (at least I think so) but it's proving to be challenging in its execution. People are finding it difficult to choose a behavior (worried, I think, that whatever they pick will reveal or reflect some deficiency in their existing behavior). And those who have chosen a behavior are finding it difficult to articulate observable actions that support it.

I believe I bear some responsibility for their reticence. Wanting to make sure our values and their supporting behaviors had some teeth, I decided to connect the exercise I described above to our performance evaluation process. I communicated to all that those who thoughtfully choose a behavior and who visibly manifest that behavior in the office over the next few months will be eligible for higher rewards at raise time than those who don't. It won't be the only factor considered in that decision, but it will be an important one.

My jury is still out on whether that was a good idea or not, but I am committed to seeing the experiment through. Some people may think that I'm raising the stakes needlessly high, but I think steps like this are necessary if we are going to better incorporate our values and associated behaviors into the fabric of our organization.

But sensing trepidation from the folks I rely on for our success, I decided I needed to take an additional action to better demonstrate the spirit with which I hoped everyone would approach the exercise. In essence, I needed to lead by example. I needed to do exactly what I had asked everyone else to do.

Stay tuned. In a future post, I'll write about the behavior I chose and the things I'm doing to better manifest it in the office.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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