Moving from Values to Virtues

The 64-Page Culture Manual to Fraud, Corruption, and Bankruptcy

Research has shown culture is the driver of behavior in the workplace, in the classroom, and on the sports field. So, in the early 2000s, one company was so intent on building the right type of culture, they decided to build a 64-page “culture manual” outlining a mission statement, core values, and principles of human rights.

They defined their core values as respect, integrity, communication, and excellence. The 64-page document was filled with powerful and inspiring lines like, We treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. We do not tolerate abusive or disrespectful treatment. Ruthlessness, callousness, and arrogance don’t belong here.”

That company was Enron.

Don’t Just Place Values on Walls; Build Them into People

“Sport, then, can be used to cultivate good and virtuous people one athlete, coach, parent, or fan at a time. It can be quite difficult, but the good news is that many of the methods used to become a great athlete are the same methods used to become a virtuous person.”

—Bill Thierfelder, President of Belmont Abbey and Author of Less than a Minute to Go

I’m a big fan of building a team manifesto, including a statement of purpose, values, principles, and standards of behavior. However, if that is where you stop, then your culture could end up in disaster, just like Enron.

Saying at the start of our season, “We value selflessness, hard work, and enthusiasm” is no better than if, on January 1, I said, “I value a healthy savings account and looking fit.” If I don’t put money into the account, eat right, and train my body, then none of the things I said on January 1 will mean anything. It’s the same with your team’s values; they are just thoughts and judgments. Until we invest in them, they will not become virtues.

Like Thierfelder says, we invest in them by training them. We train them with repetition. So, how do we put this into practice? The same way you would if you wanted to start a physical training program: identifying areas for improvement, picking some exercises, building a plan, and then tracking it:

  1. Identify the values.
  2. Pick behaviors in alignment with those values.
  3. Make a training plan to execute those behaviors.
  4. Track those behaviors.

The Commitment Tracking System

Most sports teams measure their performance in outcomes, such as the scoreboard and other statistics. As Mark Bennett from PDS Coaching says, “Performance is a behavior, not an outcome.” So, many of the teams I work with have started tracking their behaviors. Over 10 teams have implemented this in the last six months, and now, we have figured out what works and what doesn’t, and we have been able to improve the simplicity and effectiveness of the system.

Using this tracking system will not only simplify the way you measure and record; it will also improve your ability to give immediate feedback on your culture’s performance and improvement. Suddenly, your core values won’t just get lost on the walls of your locker room; they will become a daily discussion.

I’ve made the system available not just to people in my mentorship program, but also for people who purchase 15 or more copies of Calling Up. Additionally, I will spend 30 minutes on the phone with you to discuss how to implement commitment tracking within your team, and another hour on a Skype call with your staff! More details here.