ATOP: The acronym to help managers talk about values with their teams

by | Jun 19, 2018

How do you make values integral to your work culture? We all know it doesn’t happen just because you frame a poster for the break room. Those values only become relevant when they become part of the workplace conversation and employees see how they impact the day-to-day work they do.

So part of our job as internal communicators is to equip managers to have those conversations with their teams. Especially in non-desk environments like manufacturing, retail and hospitality, managers are a critical channel of communication from corporate to employees — although this role is most often seen as simply cascading information. The missed opportunity is the chance to create two-way communication. Rather than just conveying information to employees, we want them to be participants in the discussion.

What the world needs now is not necessarily another acronym, but nonetheless we find ATOP useful for managers. Managers can stay ATOP the values conversation by:

A: Asking a question: This is the absolute easiest way to start a conversation about anything. Just by asking someone a question, the manager communicates that they care about what the employee has to say. What kind of question? Maybe asking which of the core values comes most naturally to that employee, or how they see a certain value applying to their job, or if they’ve seen any great examples lately of team members exemplifying one of the values.

T: Telling a story: Every culture on the planet, from the earliest development of language, has used stories to educate and inspire. Managers can really bring the values to life for employees by giving concrete examples of times he or she has seen the values in action. At their best, these stories can become part of the collected lore of the culture.

O: One-on-one compliments: Who doesn’t love a compliment? Just taking a few seconds to say, “Nice job,” or “Way to go,” can mean a lot. But even better is being able to give an employee a specific example of something they did right and why it was right. When managers can link behavior back to the values, it reinforces not only the importance of the values, but that particular employee’s understanding of how the values inform their individual work.

P: Praising in front of a group: A compliment can be even more powerful when it’s given in front of an audience. When a manager praises an employee in a group setting for some action that supports the values, it creates a sense of pride for that employee — and it models that behavior for other employees. It becomes not just recognition for one employee but a teachable moment for everyone.

Interested in helping your people managers create conversations around values? Tribe can help.


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