Thoughtful, strategic – and often wildly successful – organizations carefully craft their culture. They think about the values, norms and behaviours they want to see and encourage them. They communicate values… often. They offer coaching. They incentivize and reward people who exemplify these behaviours.
So imagine how pleased I was when I attended my son’s school awards ceremony last week and saw how they are promoting values and behaviours. The night kicked off with awards related to how students approach their studies like curiosity and teamwork. There were awards for students who show awareness and interest in the global context and certificates for students who promote their faith, language and culture. (It’s a French catholic school in a predominantly English community).
My won the an award for “orientation in space and time.” This involves exploring personal histories; homes and journeys; turning points in humankind; discoveries; explorations and migrations of humankind; the relationships between, and the interconnectedness of, individuals and civilizations, from personal, local and global perspectives. WOW! Who knew the kid who’s a bear in the morning is a master of time and space? (He is enjoying a bit of ribbing on that front.)
Before the awards for highest grades in each subject, there were awards for students who exemplify the International Baccalaureate student profile:
- Inquiring minds
Picture a gymnasium full of junior-high and high-school kids cheering wildly for empathy and integrity!
It was amazing to hear the students cheer for one another. Picture a gym full of junior and high-school kids cheering wildly for empathy and integrity. Imagine if society valued teamwork, curiosity, reflexion, perseverance as much as we do wealth and celebrity. Think about how easy it would be to do something like this in your workplace.
Critics will argue that this is the equivalent of a participation ribbon for every kid, but these kids are nominated by their teachers for consistently modelling a specific aptitude or behaviour. Many kids are nominated but only a few receive the certificate. It’s a prime example of appreciative inquiry – identifying a positive behaviour to get more of it. (And, so what if we recognize something of value in every kid?)
In the workplace, you can think of it as inexpensive and effective risk-management. Not only do you encourage positive, productive behaviour, you reduce destructive behaviour. Wouldn’t Volkswagen be better off if they had shown more integrity? Wouldn’t the global financial crisis been averted – or at least mitigated- if Wall Street wasn’t obsessed with short term results or if it had thought broadly of the human and financial impacts of their deceit? What does scandal cost? The ethics are as old as Aristotle but the integrated thinking and the systems approach is fairly new to business, and we need more of it.
It’s not an “either-or” proposition. In this model both positive behaviour AND achievement are recognized. The approach tells the kids early on that it’s not just the outcome that matters, but how you get there. It reminds me of Chris Hadfield’s book, An astronaut’s guide to life on earth. In it, Cmdr. Hadfield points out that temperament, teamwork and preparation matter. Many people are fit enough, smart enough, talented enough to be astronauts but do you want to live six months in space with a bunch of jerks? Do you think people behave optimally without reflexion, open-mindedness, empathy and communication?
In life, no one will ever ask you about your marks in grade Grade 11 chemistry. They will want to see how you applied that knowledge. They will notice your work ethic. They will want you to think broadly. Many people don’t have the best grades but are more adept at applying what they know or their approach brings out the best performance in a team. We need to recognize and celebrate those attributes.
Bravo les Chevaliers!