When you were being interviewed for your role, and they asked for your thoughts on quality, you didn’t laugh. You know that accountability to the customer experience is of paramount importance.

And when they inquired about your perspectives on safety, you knew how to position it as a priority.

When the topics of ethics or governance or acumen were raised, you were equally thoughtful and perfectly clear about their importance.

That’s because in nearly every company the above aspects of employment are non-negotiable. They are conditions for employment.

Remarkably, however, what is negotiable in most organizations? The degree to which cross-functional employees operate in alignment.

In other words, it’s too often expected (and even encouraged in some organizations) for employees to do the following and retain their job:

  • Sit in meetings and nod the head in agreement, while harboring no intention of committing to the plan being discussed;
  • Foster destructive, conflict-generating narratives that lay the source of poor business results at the feet of “those” people in other parts of the business;
  • Self-promote or claim undue credit for successes while cross-functional colleagues fail;
  • Agree with a decision, then use resources to drive the priorities of their own group over the goals of the enterprise.

Organizations lose—we all lose—when alignment among colleagues is negotiable: the flow of value to the market is blocked by barriers between colleagues. And the employee experience is brutal.

Your Character Is Non-Negotiable

Negotiating our personal integrity by acting outside our values divides people. Deep alignment only occurs when our words and actions are consistent with the shared values of the group. That’s heart integrity in action.

Such an approach can be difficult. As humans our egos are wired to rationalize our own poor behavior while believing that “we’ll all work together better when they change.”

That approach, as you likely noticed, is what it sounds like to negotiate our values and character. To be defeated. To play small.

The action of a person or group making cross-functional alignment a requirement of employment looks like this:

  • I’ll go first: I’ll take the high road now (instead of later).
  • I’ll go last: I’ll respond to their actions in ways that reveal my better character and our shared values.
  • I’ll go in between: Even when I’m not interacting with this person, I’ll demonstrate my respect for them and take the steps to form deep alignment across the enterprise.

Those who achieve extraordinary feats in their career have something in common with people who enjoy their lives fully: They do not negotiate their character.

P.S. We’re going deeper on this non-negotiable in our Pathways to Leadership Activation Session this Monday, March 18 at 10 a.m. Pacific. (It’s sure to be a lively discussion.) You can register here for free. (Can’t make it? Register and we’ll send you the recording.)



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