Develop a leadership code of behavior


Is the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior changing as you shift a culture or as you struggle with different generations of leaders who have varying ideas on what’s permissible at work? Do you feel like you have leaders or employees who are acting outside the lines of what might be considered ideal behavior? If these things are true for you, it may no longer make sense to continue to assume that everyone knows what behaviors are appropriate. What should a leader do to help the organization achieve clarity in this case?

Consider that the “rules” or guidelines for acceptable – if not exemplary – leadership behavior can be developed collaboratively with your leadership team and then shared widely with all employees. If behavioral expectations are mutually developed and openly shared throughout the organization there is a smaller chance for slip-ups. With a set of behavioral norms in place, when they are not followed, there is a foundation for a conversation about them.

I am suggesting that the organizational leaders begin the process because they are expected to model (appropriate) behaviors for others in the organization.

Sit down with your leadership team and facilitate a dialog about the type of behaviors that you want to foster starting with yourselves. What you’ll be looking to develop are actual observable behaviors that you want to see and model for the organization.

To get you started, here are some questions you can ask:

  • What behaviors do we want to model?
  • What will others see us actually doing and saying?
  • How will they see us doing and saying these things?
  • Why are these behaviors important?

Here are some examples and how they could be described:

Respect others: We know it’s possible to understand a colleague without agreeing with their opinion. We respect each other by listening to understand, even if we disagree. When we disagree, we verbalize it in a direct manner, calmly, and with kindness. When we respect others, it is returned not only to us, but to our customers and clients.

Give feedback: We provide feedback to each other in an open and honest way as soon as possible after we observe a situation that calls for our reaction, criticism or advice. We give critical feedback privately and praise publicly. When we deliver feedback with respect in this way, we create culture of trust.

Communicate: We communicate clearly, openly, and honestly as much as we can and as soon as we are able. We communicate things consistently and often, and in more than one way often using more than one tool. We don’t gossip or speculate about others’ motives; we ask them respectfully to clear up any misunderstandings or confusion. When we communicate in this way, we are all are better informed and better able to act consistent with our organizational mission.

As you develop your own leadership code of behavior, you can communicate it to all employees in the organization, getting their input and setting expectations for their behavior as well. When leaders create a code of behavior for themselves and hold each other accountable to it, they are in the best position to communicate and expect such behavior from everyone else in the organization.




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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.


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