On the walls of most corporate office lobbies, or somewhere in the annual report, you’ll see “Corporate Values” listed — Teamwork, Integrity, Trust, Respect — yada, yada, yada.

What if those values were truly practiced by the leadership of the company? Would that be a novel idea? What if leaders were to live the values and model the behaviors? Would they be leaders worth following?

Most companies embrace corporate values of teamwork, integrity, trust, and respect in theory, yet few see those values in practice across the organization. They spend millions of dollars each year fighting legal issues, due to a workplace environment of behaviors that diminish organizational effectiveness. What shows up instead of the expressed values of teamwork, integrity, trust, and respect is fear, hostility, disrespect, harassment, retaliation, and bullying, all of which are clearly non-productive.

What if the leadership were to acknowledge that they set the tone and mood of the climate?  Rather than assuming or making believe that the problem exists in the employee base, what if company leaders were to look in the mirror and ask Are we leaders worth following? Are we accountable for behavioral issues within the company?

Too often, when we look at workplace engagement and question why some companies get it and some do not, we see only the symptoms, rather than the root cause of the ailments.

Year after year, organizations rollout workplace engagement surveys, only to find that a significant number of employees are disengaged. A study by Aon Hewitt suggest that a disengaged employee costs an organization an average of $10,000 in profit annually. As a result, organizations with high engagement are 78% more productive and 40% more profitable. (aon.com see Multiple Effect. Insights into How Senior Leaders Drive Employee Engagement Higher).

Employee Engagement is the extent to which employees are committed to give their discretionary efforts to help the organization achieve its goals. This commitment depends on the extent to which employees respect the organization, each other, and their leadership.

Leadership credibility is key to engagement and leaders must walk the talk and set the example of ensuring an environment of values that are respectful. Employees want to feel valued, contribute, be included and believe in the company’s leadership team.

The observable behaviors of leaders will be modeled by the majority of the organization. A real opportunity exist when leaders are accountable for ensuring an engaged workplace based upon modeling positive behaviors and leading by example. The climate of the organization, ultimately, becomes the culture of the workplace. Leaders worth following will be those who establish a culture of respect, inclusion and engagement.

Six Leadership Keys to Respectful and Engaged Workplaces

  1. Lead by Example: Set the standard for consistently positive leader behaviors. Walk the talk. Your say and do must match.
  2. Deliver on Your Promises: Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it.
  3. Practice Inclusion:  Include all employees in the accomplishment of the goals, not just a critical few.
  4. Be Respectful of Others: Show courtesy and respect differences.
  5. Encourage and Develop Employees: Talent is given exposure, training is provided and experiential learning is encouraged.
  6. Communicate Effectively: Employee communication is transparent, honest and open.

Dr. Lisa J. Wicker is founder and President/CEO of Linwick & Associates, LLC, a global human resource consulting firm and creator of Career Mastered: Women’s History Leadership In Action Awards. She is an HR executive, author and career strategist who was named one of America’s Top Executives in 2012 by Uptown Professional Magazine.

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