Wednesday, August 21

The Power of A Few Small Agreements

I seem to be continually amazed at how a few commitments among a group of people can be transformative, resulting in greater harmony and productivity.  

One of my clients, The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), recently decided to give their organizational culture a jump-start in aligning with their values and business goals.  They chose 3 behaviors that research has shown to exist in constructive cultures and agreed to practice these with one another.  In a few short months, you can feel the shift.  When interns and new staff members join, these 3 behaviors are shared with them, so they know what to expect of others as well as what is expected of them.  Rather than creating a long list of do’s and don’ts, they found that zeroing in on just a few key predictive behaviors was enough to shift their culture. 

Their success reminds me of an event I witnessed and have discussed many times, because of its impact on me.  Dining at the home of friends whose daughter had just come home from Kindergarten, we were asking her about her day at school.  In her dramatic tale, she mentioned another student, whom she described as, “stupid.”  Both her parents took immediate notice, then calmly told her that, although others might use that word, they were “Bakers,” and members of the Baker family never called anyone stupid.  They continued throughout her childhood to gently yet firmly reinforce and model behaviors that they felt embodied their family culture, and to forbid those that they believed didn’t represent their values and beliefs.  Their daughter, now in college, embodies the qualities they intentionally nurtured in her—kindness, cooperation, reflection, and generosity.

Try this in your own family, team, or organization.  If you need a list of constructive behaviors to get you started, contact me and I’ll email you a list.  I’ll bet you already know some obvious behaviors to encourage as well as some to eliminate.  You’ll be astounded at the mutual trust and respect that blooms when you agree upon and intentionally practice positive behaviors.

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