It’s all about the behaviors.

Many CEOs carefully select a set of core values to represent their companies, motivate their employees, and form the basis of a strong company culture.

They’re on the right track, but they’re missing one crucial point.

While a company’s values can inspire its culture, they don’t create it—the staff’s everyday behaviors do.

So to successfully shape their organization’s culture, leaders must clearly define the behaviors that will bring the company values to life.

Values vs Behaviors

Two things limit the ability of company values to impact corporate culture.

Values are broad concepts subject to interpretation.

Because values are abstract, they can mean many things to different people. For instance, a company’s values might include:


Everyone may appreciate the concept of respect, but they may have diverse opinions about what it means to act respectfully. And most people would endorse a value like service, but ideas about what constitutes excellent service can vary tremendously.

Instead of lofty but vague ideals, leaders should provide concrete guidelines to develop their culture. They need to articulate specific behaviors.

Values are nouns that reflect a concept—not an action.

A company’s core values tend to be nouns that describe an idea, such as “Service.”  But nouns don’t convey how to actualize the concept. They offer no guidance for employees and don’t promote accountability.

In contrast, behaviors use verbs to describe an action. For example, a behavior like “Do what’s best for the customer” provides employees with a much clearer idea of what it takes to perform outstanding service.

More examples of behaviors that strengthen company culture are:

Practice blameless problem-solving
Honor commitments
Create win-win solutions
Be relentless about improvement
Communicate to be understood

Values describe ideas; behaviors describe observable actions and attitudes.

Behaviors are clear

Values alone do little to influence what employees do every day. But when leaders explain the behaviors that make company values actionable, people know what’s expected of them. Additionally, managers can effectively teach and reinforce behaviors and give people appropriate feedback for improvement.

By cultivating the right behaviors, companies can generate an exceptional culture. And at the end of the day, having a strong organizational culture is the most effective means to strengthen employee engagement, improve performance, and win business.

CultureWise offers a simple, straightforward way to help leaders identify, define, and establish specific behaviors that will improve every aspect of their organization. To learn more about developing a vibrant, high-performing culture, schedule a complimentary consultation with a CultureWise consultant.

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