Your values should be reflected in behaviors. And everyone on your team should know those behaviors. Words like “Integrity” and “Toughness” look great on the wall in the locker room or the back of a tee shirt, but if they don’t translate to the right behavior then your values aren’t very effective.

A great question to ask is “what does that look like?” When I work with teams and businesses on leadership and culture, that is a basic question I ask a lot. We always talk about core values and what is important to them. But when I ask them about their values, and say “what does that look like,” it usually takes a little time to come up with an answer.

Let’s take trust as an example. Trust is a common core value, and a pillar of accountabilty and high performing teams. But what does trust look like? When I ask that question, I usually get answers like, “Well, we have to be able to trust each other to be successful. We really value integrity here.” OK, that’s great. But that really isn’t behavior. What does trust look like?

I give them a basketball example. When our big guy leaves his man to attack the ball and help the guard who got beat off the dribble, without any hesitation, that is trust as a behavior for us. He knows he’s leaving his man open under the hoop, and if nobody helps him, his man is going to get a dunk. To the average fan, he is going to look bad for giving up a dunk. The reality is he’s doing his job, and the weak side defender has to rotate over to help him, and take away the dunk for his man. For my basketball team, that defender leaving his man without hesitation to help when he’s supposed to – that is what trust looks like.

Trust is doing the right thing for the team, even if you risk looking bad as an individual. It’s more than just saying “we trust each other, and we act with integrity.” It is telling the truth in a meeting, even when it’s hard. It’s being able to listen to criticism because you know it’s going to help you and the team, even though it’s hard. Trust is essential to any high performing team. But like any other core value, it should be defined as a behavior. It should look like something.

What does that look like? It’s a great question to ask to help you define your core values as behaviors and show your team exactly what is expected of them.

Compete. Toughness. Trust. Selflessness.

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