Monday, March 23, 2015

Values and Behaviors in Sixth Grade Language: Teamwork

I'm continuing my series of posts where I start translating the observable behaviors associated with my organization's core values into simpler "sixth grade" language. Doing so will hopefully make them more memorable--for my team, yes, but more importantly for me, who has an obligation to reinforce their important role in our organization by calling out instances in which people are and are not acting in accordance with them.

I've already tackled Leadership, Enthusiasm, and Integrity. Last up is Teamwork, which we define with the statement, "We work together to deliver exceptional service." It has seven observable behaviors associated with it, and here is a chart where I'm attempting to show a before-and-after comparison after applying the "sixth-grade" test to each one.

We work together to deliver exceptional service.

We understand and can describe how our work supports organizational objectives.
We know our part in the big picture.
We seek to understand our members, the world they live in, and the problems they face.
We understand our members' world.
We are responsive to inquiries, and are available when traveling or out of the office.
We make ourselves available.
We share information openly and proactively, demonstrating an understanding that our actions impact others.
We share before being asked.
We participate productively in team discussions, collaborating to determine the best ideas, helping to clarify needed actions, and respecting the role of the team leader.
We're good team members and good team leaders.

We take responsibility for our tasks and hold others accountable for theirs.
We do what we say we'll do.

We value and build long-term relationships.
We value our relationships.

Now, as I did with Leadership, Enthusiasm, and Integrity, I'm going to try and boil things down even more. Seven behaviors are going to be hard to remember and keep track of, no matter how simply they are described. As I look through the new list of Teamwork behaviors for common themes, I can see the following actions that would be preferable in almost any situation we find ourselves in.

1. Actions that demonstrate respect and consideration of others. Isn't this the very foundation of good teamwork? People who are selfish, or who only think about themselves, or only connect with others to the degree that it helps them accomplish their goals; they cannot in any way be described as a team player. By way of contrast, people who value the success that comes with teamwork think and act with an understanding of the team dynamics and their role within it. They share information, they keep their commitments, they act in ways that values not the short-term goal, but the long-term relationship.

2. Actions that show an understanding of organizational objectives. Acting in alignment with the bigger picture is absolutely vital. There is a certain amount of "top-down" communication that is required for this. For the staff to understand the organization's objectives, the CEO must communicate them. But success on those objectives only comes when that communication is met with a equal measure of "bottom-up" alignment. In other words, I can tell you what it is we want to achieve, and I can even suggest some ways that you can help us make that happen, but only you a align what you do with that overall objective. The first step is the mental buy-in. You must commit yourself to the task. But the second and more important step is the decision-making. What are you going to stop doing because it doesn't support our organizational objectives, and what are you going to start doing because it does? These are the actions that people who understand teamwork will take.

There. That's all four of our core values. Now, next week, I'll compare each value's short list of actions and start looking for even more consolidation.

Stay tuned.

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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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